Wildflowers and waterfalls
Wildflowers were in bloom all over the Little Molas Lake campground, and Jan was especially lucky to be parked right next to a veritable garden...
... with a lovely view of the lake from her office window.
My site was only slightly less spectacular.
We spent some time walking around Little Molas Lake, photographing it and the abundant wildflowers that grew along its shores. (There is also a Big Molas Lake a few miles away, but it's marred by an ugly and expensive commercial campground.)
I especially loved the complex shapes and delicate colors of this wild iris.
But our main purpose in this part of our wanderings was to find and photograph waterfalls. So after a couple of weeks at Little Molas Lake, we moved to the Pagosa Springs area, where Jan had heard of several waterfalls. We found a campsite in a large meadow off a dirt road—Forest Service no-cost "dispersed camping," with stays of up to 14 days permitted. From there we made daily forays in Jan's Jeep to waterfalls in the area.
First on the list was Piedra (Spanish for "rocky") Falls. The Piedra River passes near town, and in fact there's a quite spectacular gorge that's accessible from a viewing point off the main road. No flat photo can do justice to the feeling we got when standing on the rocky ledge and looking downward, but I encourage you to click on the image below—unlike most in these pages, it's linked to a double-sized version that will give you a better idea of what it was like.
See those sheer cliffs in the distance? Well, we're standing at the very edge of one just like them; that's what those jagged rocks along the bottom of the photo are. Heights make me nervous, and I can tell you that I was very careful when moving near the edge of this precipice.
Located a few miles away from the gorge, Piedra Falls is a smallish waterfall that springs from a cleft between two massive rock walls, and falls about thirty feet into a pool.
On this hike, I experimented with changing my camera's shutter speed to either freeze the water or let it stream like a veil. Here's a comparison that gives you a good idea of the difference.
For the first image, I let the camera's "Intelligent Auto" setting take over and do what it wanted. The resulting fast shutter speed froze the water in mid-splash, making it look almost jelly-like. This stop-action effect might work well if you were photographing a kayaker shooting a rapids, but for this waterfall I prefer the tranquil, almost silky effect produced by a longer exposure.
When I got tired of photographing the falls, there were always wildflowers. These big prairie coneflowers were unmistakable...
... and I had fun turning this thistle into a silkscreen-like image in Photoshop.
I still haven't managed to identify these tiny yellow flowers...
... or this even tinier purple one...
... which was smaller than my pinkie fingernail!
By the way, I shot that ultra-closeup photo with my iPhone 4, using the "Easy Macro" accessory. This remarkably clever little $15 device consists of a small lens embedded in a blue rubber band.
It slips over just about any cell phone, and provides amazing magnification, as witness this photo of a quarter (greatly reduced from the original). And unlike most add-on lenses for cell phones, it can easily be carried in your pocket, or even your wallet.