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Snowy Landscape in my Backyard

I've long loved where I live in Colorado.  We have a good view, and fantastic neighbors.  It's a great way for me to practice my photography, especially when we get a snowfall.  

We got some nice snow over the weekend, so I took the opportunity to go out just around the house and take some shots.  It was 5 degrees outside, so I didn't last long, but I took this one in the backyard.  I had to keep shooing the dogs away so they didn't jostle the tripod.  My goal was to shoot the neighbor's pine tree with the mountain in the background, and this is the shot I liked the best, because of the other foreground elements, giving it a sense of depth.

Winter Wonderland

Fireworks and Fun at the Torchlight Parade

This is actually a photo that was taken a couple of weeks ago.  Winter Park Ski Resort, on Christmas Eve, has a torchlight parade where skiers go down the mountain with lights, followed by Santa and then some fireworks (and then some lit snow machines too).  We didn't go last year because it was about 2 degrees outside, but this particular evening was somewhere in the 20's, so figured it would be fun.

A huge bonfire was lit in the middle of the main ski area with people milling around, and holiday music blaring over the loudspeaker.  Leif lifted Peter up on his shoulders so he could see the skiers coming down the mountain, and also see the fireworks.  This is more of a social event than anything - it's fun to people watch, and just be outside with everybody.

I was playing with settings on the camera continuously, and took way too many fireworks shots. Everything had tons of noise in it (based upon where I was standing and the darkness of the area), but I actually like this one. Leif suggested I get rid of the smoke, but I like it in the shot since it's part of the fireworks.

Torchlight parade at Winter Park

National Western Stock Show Parade

The National Western Stock Show is starting this weekend!  We've never been to it.  Well, we had tickets to one of the events before Peter was born, but Leif decided he didn't want to go at the last minute.  However, this year we're going to just go and walk around (no shows) since Peter loves horses and animals. All of the rodeo times don't work too well with his nap, so next year we'll see some other stuff.

Every year, there's a parade kickoff through the streets of downtown Denver during lunch hour.  Rustling of steer, Westernaires, cowboys, stagecoaches, anything related to the show, you'll see it at the parade (the funniest part of the parade was you knew it was the end because there were a ton of street sweeper machines following the last horses).

I decided at the last minute to head on over there. Leif didn't want to go, and with Peter at daycare, I figured it was a good opportunity to get some photos without dealing with others in my family.  I'm glad I went - it was fun to people watch, fun to hang out in the gorgeous winter weather (it was a little over 50 degrees and sunny), and fun to see the parade.

I took a bunch of photos, and while I like a lot of them, this one is my pick for the day.  This guy had the mechanical bull attached to the back of a car, and the car was bouncing all over the street, so he really had to hold on.

Stock Show Parade

The Worst Shot is the One You Don't Take (or: Morning Landscapes)

Somebody at Photoshop World, and forgive me since I don't remember who it was, said to their class that the worst photo is the one you don't take.  I've been trying to remember that whenever I mentally try to talk myself out of taking a shot.  One that's not perfectly set up, one where I think the lighting sucks, one where I have to go out of my way.  I've been trying to just take them all since it doesn't matter if it's perfect or not, as long as I'm taking photos.

Yesterday morning I was driving home from the morning karate instructor academy workout.  I hit a nice clear view area on my drive, looked off to my left in the distance, and saw a snow-capped mountain top sitting right next to just a plain old brown mountain top.  The plain brown one was obviously a much closer distance, and a much lower altitude, but I thought that was really cool. I didn't stop and take a photo at that time for 2 reasons. 1) I didn't have my camera (and if I had, I wouldn't have had my zoom lens on it most likely), and 2) I really didn't have time since I had to run home and eat lunch before going to my private lesson.  I put in my back of my head to go grab a photo this morning after dropping Peter off at daycare.

I set up the camera last night, and almost didn't grab it this morning since it was 45 degrees outside, but then I remembered that cool view, and tossed it in my car. After dropping Peter off, I honestly wasn't sure exactly where to stop to take it, so I headed back towards the dojo and figured I'd turn around at some point, and find a good spot.  Nothing looked good until I drove past the Majestic View Nature Center. Nothing in the way of the view, just clear grass, a pond, some trees off in the distance, and some distant houses.  A perfect venue.

I snapped off a few, trying to follow the tips I had picked up from the Composition Digital Field Guide by Alan Hess, and then decided to try a few HDR shots.  That seemed to go well. The funny thing is, in my mind I had a view of the shot I wanted.  When I got out there, I did take that shot, but took a bunch of others, and got one similar to my mental image, but better:


Processed in Photomatix Pro, enhanced with PhotoTools.

Finally I turned to head back to the car. At the last second before opening the door, I looked up past the car, and saw a house with a bunch of colorful trees around it.  Even though our weather had been weird lately (cold, really windy, then warm again, then cold at night, etc...), the leaves on these trees decided to hang on for awhile longer. I re-set up the tripod, and came away with this bonus shot:

The last of the fall foliage

This HDR I processed in Photoshop, but again enhanced it in PhotoTools.

Both of these photos I took within 5 miles of my house. 

How to White Water Raft Before Work

A few weeks ago Leif and I were talking about how we'll be able to snowboard again this winter since Peter is in daycare. We'll drop him off, then head up for an hour, then come home, and go to work. It got me thinking about other things we can do like that in the mornings since Peter is in daycare. As I was thinking about this, we drove by Clear Creek and saw people white water rafting on it. A few miles down the road, we drove by the Clear Creek Rafting Company. I pulled out my iphone, and saw they did couple hour trips. An idea was formed.

This morning, Leif, myself, and our friends Randy and Derek dropped Peter off at daycare really early, drove 30 minutes to the Clear Creek Rafting Company, did a 2 hour intermediate trip, and were back at our place well in time before the majority of Yahoo engineers were at work.

Although it was late in the season, and we thought the water would be low and lame, we were wrong. The water level was definitely low, but they ran the intermediate trip down the advanced course in smaller boats. As a result, the 4 of us had our own boat (with a guide, of course), and went through some nice class III and IV rapids. The water was cold, the weather was gorgeous, and we had a great time.

I love this state. You definitely couldn't do this in California!



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Loving This Weather!

The following has been the routine since roughly mid-December.

  1. Wake up in the morning, look out the window, see that it's snowed.
  2. Our driveway this morning before we plowed/shoveled it

  3. Try and figure out how deep it is to decide if we need to wear ski pants and/or boots to take the dogs out. Anything under 2 inches is sweats and an old pair of sneakers.
  4. Michelle and Loki walking in the backyard

  5. Feed the hyperactive dogs, take them out. Curse the fact that you forgot to wear socks and get snow on your bare ankles. Curse the dogs for always having to go in the deepest part of the yard.
  6. Loki buried in the snow

  7. Look at the driveway. Depending on how much accumulation there is on the driveway, either plow or not plow at this time. How hard it's snowing doesn't matter. Remember the blizzard when there was 2 feet of snow on the driveway and begging the neighbor to use his ATV plow to do it. Vow to never let 2 feet of snow accumulate on the driveway again.
  8. Brian Scares the Swede

  9. If outside plowing/shoveling, yell to all the other neighbors doing the same thing. Strike up various conversations with them. Watch the kids play in the all the snow piles on your lawn, sometimes making them fall on your nicely shoveled driveway. Realize it doesn't matter since the snow just started coming down harder and you'll have to plow again in a few hours.
  10. Kurt Has to Put the Snow Someplace...

  11. Join the club and help the kids make snow jumps and little hills. Watch how easily amused they are.
  12. Erin Sledding

  13. Realize you're still a kid and join in the sledding.
  14. Michelle Takes a Turn

  15. Repeat the process every few hours until it finally stops snowing.
  16. Leif shoveling snow in his shorts

  17. Over the next few days, watch the snow start melting, and breathe a sigh of relief you don't have to shovel again. Each morning try to convince the dogs to NOT go to the bathroom in the deepest part of the yard like they enjoy doing.
  18. 5 days later, watch the weather report where they once again predict snow.
  19. Go to 1 and repeat the cycle


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The Denver Blizzard of '06

Well, if you've watched any sort of news today, no matter where you are, you've probably heard about the big blizzard that hit the Denver area today. With nowhere to go, and no place important to be, it's been a pretty fun day actually for me. Probably not for the people stranded at the airport though.

All the schools were closed today (as well as tomorrow), so I had several neighborhood kids over this morning to watch movies (High School Musical, and Elf), and play Xbox 360. Kids get so restless! I guess I was the same way as a kid, but I swear towards the end of Elf they all wanted to finish it, but were extraordinarily fidgety. I sent them home for lunch, then went next door since Karyl was home (school teacher), and we made the dough for sugar cookies. Then we decided the snow was deep enough, so off into our backyard it was to play with the snow puppies. Loki and Odin were soooo happy to have so many friends play with them, they didn't know which way to turn. We buried Loki in the snow up to his neck, and threw the football for them and watched them dig and act like little bunny rabbits jumping up and down in the snow drifts.

Then it was an hour of silence as they went off to build a snow fort, then back to Karyl's to finish the sugar cookies, and then just general hanging out the rest of the afternoon/evening until it was dinnertime. Cathy brought over some chili she had made, and we had that, sugar cookies, cheese and crackers, and beer.

We gave up trying to plow the driveway - the drifts were too deep and even now it's still coming down like mad. Brian tried to do his and our driveway with his 4x4, but it got snowed over too fast, so he decided to wait as well.

No pictures yet - with all the blowing snow, I can just imagine ruining Leif's camera and he definitely wouldn't be too happy. I'll get some for sure tomorrow - it's supposed to stop snowing around noon. :)

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The Resorts are Opening!

I called it, mid-October, and while I didn't think resorts would ever open that early, both A-Basin and Loveland are open for business! A-Basin only has a blue run open, while Loveland has a green, but that's not the point is it? The point is that we can actually go snowboarding in Colorado now, and the season runs through May or June usually. WOOHOO!!!

A-Basin apparently was the first resort in all of North American to open too.

While we won't be able to go this weekend, that's fine since we have season passes to Loveland and I'll go during the week while Leif is working. :)

Link about A-Basin opening.

How Many Pieces of ID do I Need?

Today was our second Colorado DMV experience. It actually went very smoothly being that a) we didn't go to the main office, we went to a minor office, b) we got there early so didn't have to wait forever, and c) I had called yesterday.

"c" is the most crucial of these actually. Previously when we attempted to go to the Colorado DMV, having your unexpired out-of-state driver's license and your US Passport were sufficient to prove your identity. And why not? Both are government issued, and both have your picture on them, making it a win-win situation.

Someone must have been having a slow, unproductive work day one day, gotten yelled at by his boss, and told to "make something happen", so he thought to himself, "now how can we mess people up even more when going to the DMV," and while shooting up crack, decided that no longer was a US Passport good enough identification, you needed yet another piece of ID!

I mean come on, a US Passport *by itself* is usually good enough ID for places like...oh I don't know...the airport, going through customs, foreign countries, but nope! Not for the Colorado DMV.

I randomly happened to call them yesterday to verify that the minor office we were going to did out-of-state transfers, and they happened to mention that the policy against passports JUST CHANGED yesterday. Oh, and note that it's not *all passports*, you guessed it, just US Passports.

So as a born, raised, patriotic, and bred US citizen, my totally 100% genuine US passport isn't good enough, HOWEVER if I had been born, raised, and bred in another country, my foreign passport would have been fine, and sufficed as a secondary ID.

ON TOP OF THAT, I pretty much only had 2 choices of a third ID: a certified marriage license (which fortunately I had), or a state certified birth certificate. NOT A CITY CERTIFIED which is what I had in my "important papers" file, but a state certified. Note that none of these have a photo and the person glanced at the marriage license for like half a second before actually turning back to the license and the passport.

Foreign born citizens had a choice of the marriage license, and 6 OTHER CHOICES INCLUDING THEIR FOREIGN PASSPORT. I should preface that though by saying if I had been adopted or in the military I could've used those documents, bringing my possible total up to 4.

From the list, Leif literally had 4 other pieces of ID in his possession, I had 1.

So I was able to get a driver's license with little trouble because I had called ahead and known to bring the other ID (note to Colorado DMV webmaster, it's kind of cryptic on the site talking about this issue, you may want to fix it...), but what exactly is this issue supposed to solve besides making it more difficult for people to get driver's licenses? Have there been that many issues in Colorado where people walked in with forged passports? And wouldn't it just be easier for them to walk in with a fake foreign passport anyways since most people probably can't tell a real one from a fake one? And seriously, why couldn't they just link into the California DMV database to verify my information, that would be one seriously useful piece of technology.

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First Thoughts as to Our Move

It's been a few days since we arrived at the new house, but there's been a lot going on. We ended up blowing through Wyoming on Saturday (we were supposed to stop in Rawlins), and just bit the bucket and headed straight for the house. Arriving at around 9pm, we noticed that no one else had any lights on, so were wondering if people just went to sleep early or were all out. After letting the dogs out, figuring out some of the light switches, and unloading the car, we headed out to get some pizza. I'd like to say thank you to my TomTom 910 because without it we wouldn't have ever found the house, nor ever found anyplace to eat. We got back to the house, and our next door neighbor, Brian, was in the garage. The second we got out of the car he said "hi new neighbors, want a beer?" Both of us knew at that point we'd get along fine. We all stood on his driveway for awhile, meeting his wife, and some of the other neighbors, before heading back into the house, downing the pizza quickly, and going to sleep.

Sunday we weren't entirely sure what to do since our stuff wasn't arriving until Monday, so we just wandered around the area looking for random stuff and seeing where things were. Towards dinnertime, we opened the garage to leave to go to the store, when Brian called over to us from Kurt's porch (2 doors down), and told us to come over and get some beer. Hung out there for awhile, and after about 4 beers Leif mentioned he was hungry. I swear this is the nicest neighborhood. They knew we didn't have any food, or a fridge, and wouldn't let us eat takeout again, so Kurt grabbed some pork chops from the freezer, and we had grilled pork chops and veggies for dinner.

I was really worried about meeting people since I'm not going to be working yet, and Leif's working from home, but already we had met a ton of people, and EVERYONE is so nice! Everyone has offered to help us out with stuff if we can't find something, or need anything. Brian has already gone out of his way several times with beer, lending us a phone so we could test ours, directions, what have you. Both of us feel very welcome to this neighborhood.

Monday we got most of our stuff, everything except for the overflow shipment. I actually got sunburned sitting outside with the movers telling them where stuff went. Towards the middle of the afternoon, the 2 kids from next door and one of their friends were outside of our fence throwing a tennis ball for Loki. We had them ask their parents if it was ok if they came inside the fence to play with the dogs. The kids had a blast, playing with the dogs for about an hour. Their favorite part was filling up the water dish for Loki and watching him splash all the water out. Monday night I went to a scrapbook party (yes, already!!).

Today we attempted to go to the DMV to get new driver's licenses. If you ever want to learn about inefficiency, go to the Lakewood DMV. No appointments, 70 people ahead of us (you get a number for a certain line depending on what you want to do when you get there), 2 tellers helping out with the licenses. In 15 minutes, 5 people were helped. We looked at each other, decided the California licenses were good for awhile, and left. We're going to try going Friday morning at 8am, and maybe hit an outlying office instead of the main one. Both of us were flabbergasted though.

Things I've noticed so far that are different:

1) You can't buy liquor on Sundays, and you have to go to a liquor store to even get beer. The grocery stores sell beer, but it contains less alcohol than normal.

2) Every single person we've met so far, including all of the wait staff at the restaurants we've been to, all of our neighbors, and the teller at Wells Fargo, have been VERY FRIENDLY. It's kind of creepy and weird if you're coming from a state like California, but definitely refreshing.

3) The altitude does affect you. Both of us are more tired than normal, and really thirsty. I've also been told when you bake you have to change the recipe for high altitude.

4) Out of all the people we've seen, there's probably only been 1 I might stereotype as an illegal immigrant, and I wasn't too sure as to that one.

5) The DMV here is like the California DMV before appointments, a lesson in inefficiency. It makes you ill.

6) There is no helmet law here, we've seen a ton of people riding their motorcycles without one.

7) After the tax writeoff, we're paying less in rent for this house than we did for our little house in Santa Clara. Housing prices here are NORMAL!

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