Photography by J.D. Magers

Portfolio Book Image: Balance

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Arches is unlike any place on Earth.  Utah is unlike any place on Earth actually.  This is the famous Balanced Rock in Arches.  It has been photographed approximately 140 million times since every one and their brother now owns a digital camera.  Getting an original composition is difficult, and I image this particular scene from this particular angle has also been photographed by someone else.  It's all good though.  I don't care.

What I managed to capture is some gorgeous red/blue color contrast in sunset light.  We have some foreground elements, and some nice shadows underneath the juniper shrubs.  This image makes me feel the desert warmth, and it makes me remember the exact moment I shot it.  How I walked around for 30 minutes looking for a foreground that would work.  That was the first time I had really made a cognizant effort to search for a pleasing foreground element.  I think my patience was rewarded.  I love this image.  It's one of my favorites from the trip.

Balanced Rock.  Arches National Park, Utah

Portfolio Book Image:Double Arch

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I grew up in Western Colorado.  That means I spent a lot of my time in Eastern Utah.  There were many summers where every Friday afternoon, my family packed up, hitched up the boat and drove the four hours to Lake Powell.  We'd come back late Sunday night.  It was awesome.  And it gave me such a deep appreciation for the beauty the desert holds.  

In 2012, I returned to Utah for two days of solitude.  I hadn't been there in ten years or so, and I had forgotten why I love the place.  After I checked into my room, I drove up to Canyonlands to do some scouting.  My heart leapt when I saw the sheer sandstone cliffs, and I was overcome with excitement.  I was a kid again, back in my second home.

The next morning, I shot Mesa Arch at sunrise with 50 other photographers.  That afternoon I went into Arches, and made my way around in the late afternoon.  This is Double Arch, which is where one of the scenes in Indiana Jones was filmed.  Definitely a majestic hunk of rock, and well worth spending some quality time here.  If for nothing else, just to listen to the wind and watch the rock pick up the color of the setting sun.  

I took a lot of photos on this trip.  I need to go back soon.  It's been far too long...

Double Arch, Arches National Park, Utah

Double Arch, Arches National Park, Utah

Portfolio Book Image: That Way

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As I mentioned with the last black and white, I have really start to look for patterns and symmetry when I go on my hikes.  Being able to see these types of things can really enhance the image when it is processed in black and white.  It basically boils down to intention, and having a plan in mind when composing that particular photograph.  

I don't always have a plan when I go out, other than to know where I'm going.  I usually go out to look for birds and try to work on that life list.  But I am always open to other images.  Especially when there is great light.  

If you head South from the parking lot at Barr Lake State Park, there is a boardwalk leading to a gazebo that sits on the water.  The problem is that a lot of the water gets drained out of the lake by mid summer because it is used to irrigate farms out on the plains.  What is left after the water is gone is this mishmash of dying water plants, weeds  that aren't water plants, and stuff that settles in one spot because it has nowhere else to go.  If you are paying attention while walking out to the gazebo, you might just spot something pleasing to the eye.  Like maybe a pointy piece of driftwood, sitting in a bed of weeds.  This was even on the shady side of the bridge.  This image wouldn't have worked if we were on the other side.  

I don't remember if I added any birds to my list that day, but I do remember being extremely pleased after processing this image.

Barr Lake State Park, Colorado

Portfolio Book Image: The Turtle

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Last time we looked at this same stream as we hiked up the mountain.  Well, on the way back down the hill, I spotted this gigantic tortoise coming out of the water.  What gorgeous texture on that rock!  Add in the roaring water, and this is a just a wonderful photograph.  It still makes me smile all these years after making the image.  Absolutely one of my favorite photos from my earlier days.  

Bear Lake Trail, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.

Portfolio Book Image: Tranquil

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Rocky Mountain National Park in the summer.  Not a bad place to be.  This little stream sits along side the trail as you hike up away from Bear Lake.  I don't really remember how far up the trail we are here, but I do know it's leaving from the Bear Lake trailhead.  What I like most about this image is the silky smooth water, and how green and vibrant the foliage is.  This is an HDR image, so combining the images is what gives the water its look.  The rest of it comes from being late spring and shooting at mid morning.  Summer's heat hadn't taken hold yet, turning everything brown.  I love Spring.  Glad it's almost here...

Bear Lake Trail, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.

Bear Lake Trail, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.

Portfolio Book Image: Reflection

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This is another one of my favorite Rocky Mountain National Park scenes.  Absolutely no wind to disturb the lake water, and a perfect reflection of the pine trees as the result.  Yes this image is centered in the frame, but I think that is what makes brings out the brilliance of the reflection.  If I had cropped off some of the lake water, the image loses its impact.  It's okay to sometimes break the rules, as long as you do so with a purpose.  This shot is worth it to me.  That being said, I am curious about what others think.  I know what my two image reviewers thought...

Portfolio Book Image: Palm Bark

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And, we're done with flowers already.  Moving on to the next subject.  This is another of my absolute favorite black and white images.  This is palm tree bark, taken outside in my father-in-law's backyard during one of our Florida trips to see Grandpa.  I had the setting sun behind me, which was providing some awesome Florida light.  I never really considered this in color however, seeing it from start to finish as a black and white.  The challenge was finding a composition through the view finder.  With as many of these bark shards as there were, it was mostly about finding a pleasing pattern.  After a couple of attempts, I saw the bark in kind of these diagonal rows, which helped me settle on an image with lines in it.  After only a couple more frames, I knew I had the image.  And I know to look for patterns in my images that I intend to convert to black and white.

Portfolio Book Image: Tulips

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This image was taken way back in 2008 before I really new what I was doing.  This was in Spring time on the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder.  Their little flower planters were packed with tulips.  I remember having just purchased my 50mm f/1.8.  I believe this was one of the first images I took with that lens.  I think what really appeals to me here is the strong red/green color vibration.  Color theory says these two colors together are supposed to be pleasing to the eye.  You can't really argue here.  Add in a little splash of purple, and a real shallow depth of field, and I think we really have something here.

Portfolio Book Image: Pink

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And we're on to the next subject.  Fauna.  When I saw it, my eye was immediately drawn to this flower.  The brightness of the pink against the muted green leaves just drew me in.  I also really, really like how the leaves form three lines that go right up to the subject.  There is also a lot of little details in the hair like structures that form the basis of the flower.  It kind of reminds me of cilia, but that's just geeky science talk.

Unfortunately, I don't know what the name of this flower is.  I shot it down in Florida over one of our Christmas vacations.  I think it was in the Palm Beach area.  I remember it being a cloudy day, which made the mid day light really muted.  It's probably why this shot works so well.  If it had been a sunny, spectral light day, I don't think I would have liked this image nearly as much.  I might not have seen it honestly.  I did though, and that's all that matters...

Portfolio Book Image: Angry Red

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Red Winged Blackbirds are so cool.  I attract them every day to my bird feeders in the backyard.  Not surprising really, given they're everywhere.  But there is just something about that red spot on each shoulder that draws me to them.  Especially when the golden hour light hits them just right, and you can see how vibrant it can be.  

This image isn't at golden hour, but it was at Barr Lake mid morning on a flat light day.  Goes to show you what can be accomplished even under "crappy" lighting conditions.  The bird saw me taking his picture, and wasn't afraid to tell me hits thoughts on the matter.  I really like how you can see both of his eyes, and there is also a lot of detail in the feathers on his breast and tail.

Another reason this image appealed to me is the soft background.  It really separates the bird and makes him stand out.  The compression from the long lens does that for us.  I also know that he is centered in the frame, but I feel the square crop works here.  He is sitting high up in a tree after all...  

Red Winged Blackbird, Barr Lake State Park, Adams County Colorado.

Red Winged Blackbird, Barr Lake State Park, Adams County Colorado.

Portfolio Book Image: Spot Red

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This image here is going to be one of the more controversial for my portfolio book.  It certainly was in the feedback I got from the two people I had edit my choices.  There is just something about this photo that appeals to me.  I don't even think the subject here is the bird, even though that's what it was intended to be.  I think the true subject that came out of this photo is the red wing.  There is just enough detail in that red, and in the flapping wings to make this photo look awesome.  It ended up being a little, well, abstract, and I'm okay with that.

Abstraction of a Red Winged Blackbird trying to get away from me.

Portfolio Book Image: Wood Duck Reflection

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Every October, Scott Kelby and his company organize a World Wide Photowalk.  I think last year there were over 30,000 participants world wide.  Pretty impressive.  I have done the photowalk once, although I have tried every year.  This image is from the 2012 walk that was held down in Littleton.  It seems like everything photographic in Denver is held down in the Littleton area, but oh well.  A good friend of mine had been showing an interest in getting into photography, and the walk was the perfect opportunity for us to go out and let him press the shutter a few times.  So I borrowed a camera from another friend at work, drove down through a really bad rainstorm, and went walking with about 30 others when the clouds parted.  This Wood Duck is now my favorite image from the walk.  It isn't what I submitted to the contest, but probably should have been.  Reflections are huge with me and my photography, and this image has a beautiful reflection.  I also like the feather floating in the water.  We'll see if I am able to participate in the walk this year.  I sure hope so.

Wood Duck swims in a park pond near Littleton, Colorado.

Portfolio Book Image: Swainson's Hawk

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Raptors are my favorite bird.  Especially Hawks.  And Kestrel's.  But before I saw my first Kestrel, I had always been trying to get an image of a hawk.  And not one sitting on a telephone pole either.  Those are boring.  I wanted one in a tree, with a nice clean background.  It took six years.

It is virtually impossible to sneak up on a hawk.  Even if you're behind it, they always seemingly fly off when you take your first step towards them.  So imaging my surprise when I saw this beautiful juvenile Swanson's Hawk sitting on a tree stump just off the side of the road on my way to Barr Lake.  He even stayed there when I hit the breaks and pulled over.  He was very patient with me as shot, but I didn't really move more than 10 feet away from the jeep so as not to scare him away.  As such, this is cropped pretty good, but I finally had my hawk image.  

I just love the way he (or she) is staring right into the camera.  Clearly I'm being assessed for a potential threat, but since I didn't even try to approach, I guess I was okay.  I can't wait to get close to one again.  So pretty.

Portfolio Book Image: Lake Snow

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As we go along with this book project (and yes I know it has been several months since there's been a new post, but I'm back!), one thing you'll notice is an intermittent black and white.  I've done this deliberately, because I do not have 20-30 images of my best work that are one cohesive theme.  I have plenty of great landscapes and nature images, plenty of great portraits and other images with people, but I don't have 20-30 that could fill the book.  So I will be separating out the best work with my best black and whites.  Each mini theme if you will, will be separated out in this manner.  For example, the first three images posted for the book were natural (the landscape opener, and then two nature images).  Now for the black and white.  The next subject will be my best avian images, and then another black and white.  We'll see what it looks like in the end.

As for this image, it was taken in the 2009-2010 timeframe while hiking along the Bear Lake Train in Rocky Mountain National Park.  I don't think it's Bear Lake, but it could be.  I don't remember.  I was drawn by how the melting snow has revealed all these exposed tree roots.  I knew when it saw it that the contrast between the snow and the forest would make a nice moody black and white.  There is a moody feel to this image, and it makes me want to go further and yet turn around at the same time.  I'm pretty sure I went further...

Melting snow reveals exposed tree roots high in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.

Portfolio Book Image: Bull Snake Love

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Ahh Spring.  Absolutely my favorite season.  The snow is gone.  Baseball is back and the Rockies are actually relevant for a couple of weeks.  Birds sing.  Flowers and the garden get planted.  Hiking is more enjoyable.  Unless you see this in the middle of the trail that is:

Two bull snakes mating in the middle of the trail at Barr Lake State Park, Adams County, Colorado.

My aunt and uncle were visiting from San Francisco.  They both have an interest in bird watching, and I am trying to learn so I figured I would take them to the south end of Barr Lake State Park to see what we could see.  We got a half mile or so down the trail, having seen plenty of birds, including my uncle's first Bullock's Oriole.  We saw a lady hurrying back towards the parking lot, and she warned us about a snake in the middle of the trail.  We thanked her and went on our merry way.  A couple of minutes later, with binoculars and camera to our eyes while looking at the trees, I heard my aunt yell out to Stop!!  My uncle almost stepped right in the middle of this pile of reptilian hanky panky.  

What an awesome sight to see.  You can definitely see how much bigger the male is than the female by the size of their heads.  At first we thought he was eating her, but it became evident after a couple of minutes what was going on.  All of us watched for a few minutes, I took some snaps, and we continued on down the trail.  Thirty or so minutes later, on the way back, they were still at.  As we approached to go around them, they finished their business and split up, both heading in opposite directions.  Typical breakup…she went her way, and he his.  There's a joke in there somewhere...

Portfolio Book Image: American Bison

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Luck favors the prepared.  That's really what it boils down to, but I still consider this shot to be pretty lucky.  

Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge is 15000 acres of reclaimed land in the middle of Denver, where the U.S. Army used to make chemical weapons and private industry used to make pesticides.  After a massive clean up effort, the land today is home to over 300 species of birds and mammals.  This includes a herd of 60-80 bison that live behind a double enclosure of approximately 2200 acres.  

The bison enclosure is drivable, with the road extending for a half mile or so.  This guy and his buddy were no more than ten feet from the road grazing.  There were four cars watching them and taking photographs (you're not allowed to get out of your vehicle for obvious safety reasons.  These are wild animals.).  Anyway, the four of us were all parked on the side of the road doing our thing, and then when one or the other bison moved, somebody would choose to drive up the road a little ways, turn around and come back for more.  There isn't a whole lot of traffic.  We did this for maybe 20 minutes or so.  

For this shot, I was the only one watching this particular bison.  The other three cars were with the other guy.  I was experimenting with different crops on my lens, when all of a sudden he lifted up one of those massive hooves and started scratching his face like a dog.  As I had the camera on burst mode, I hit the shutter and fired off as many shots as I could, praying that in my excitement one of them would be in focus with a tack-sharp eye.  None of the other cars saw him do it, I was alone.  Like any good itch, it lasted for maybe ten seconds.  Pure awesomeness.  After that, I left to race home and see what I had.  Yep, I got lucky…It was a great day.  And this is one of my very favorite images I have ever made.

American Bison taking care of an itch at Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge.  Commerce City, Colorado.  March 2014.

Portfolio Book Image: Flatirons Sunrise

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A few months back, I mentioned that I was going to take Zack Arias' advice from his Photography Q & A book and figure out what my 20-30 best images are and get a book printed.  Well, I have completed the task of looking at over 14,000 images captured since 2006.  I have gotten impartial feedback from trusted confidants (Thanks Brett, and Uncle Jack and Aunt Debi, I appreciate your help!).  I have narrowed the images down to 23 of my best work.  

Over the next few weeks, I am going to upload them 1 or 2 at a time, depending on when the toddler goes to sleep.  Once complete, I will post about why I selected each image.  I will then send the book off to printing to keep on my desk at work and to have here at home.  If you have feedback on any image as the portfolio evolves, or feel a picture just doesn't fit, please let me know.  I enjoy feedback.

Here is the first picture, taken back in 2009 when I was first learning HDR.  I've reworked it several times over the years as I get more comfortable with processing.  Enjoy.

Sunrise on the Flatirons.  Boulder, Colorado.

What a Pretty Lady

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A couple weeks back I mentioned going to visit my Grandmother in her new apartment.  My Grandma is awesome.  After she moved in, I was talking to her on the phone.  I asked if she was running the place yet.  Without hesitation she said, "Not yet, but we have a mandatory meeting tomorrow so I'll let them know then."  Ha!  What a dry sense of humor.  Like I said, she's awesome.  


Anyway, I wanted to try and get a really nice portrait of her to surprise my Dad with. Portraits are not my strength, but I'm working on them.  What's the best way to get a somewhat candid portrait of your Grandparent?  Easy, stick your three year old on their lap and take some pictures of the both of them.  Then zoom in.  I think this is a pretty nice portrait of my Grandmother, but it isn't the image I was hoping to get.  My daughter has incredible curly hair and a fondness for the iPhone.  Unfortunately you can see both here in the portrait.  Cropping isn't really an option because there isn't enough space on the left.  I'm going to have to chalk this one up to an experiment that I can learn from.  I just need to go visit, take the camera, take the flash and tell her I want to make some beautiful portraits of a very beautiful lady.  I think she'd be game for that.  Especially if her beloved Broncos are on while I'm there...

Fire and Ice

Added on by J.D. Magers.

It sure feels like winter is coming.  Lots of cold air and rain expected this week.  But then again, this is Colorado and I'll believe it when I see it.  Anyway, here is an image I've been experimenting on for a couple of weeks.  I shot this back in January, but never tried to process it .  Thought I would now…you know, since winter is coming and all.

January Sunrise at Barr Lake State Park, Adams County, Colorado.

January Sunrise at Barr Lake State Park, Adams County, Colorado.