Focus Trek #5 – Looking for a Heartbeat in Telluride (Part 2)

Report # Photo:

The search continues…

“The most beautiful music in the world is your own heartbeat, it assures you that you will survive even when the whole world leaves you alone.”


There was a six hour break between sessions. The bouldering session was not going to start until 4pm and I didn’t even know where that was meeting yet.  After breakfast, I said goodbye to Tom and his companion and went out to Airport Rd, where Last Dollar Rd starts on the south end, to see if I could grab a shot of three barns I was told about by my cousin. I was staying at her in-laws beautiful home downtown and was told they might like to have a good shot of them against Mt. Wilson. The clouds were starting to build now so It was a good a time as any. Plus, I wanted to drive the entire length of Last Dollar Rd and these barns were on the way. I had five hours.

“This is plenty of time to take pictures and drive the 20 mile route” my heart told my brain.

And my brain looked at my heart and said, “Idiot, we’ve been through this before, you know.”

“Yeah, I know, we can do it this time”, my heart said quietly, knowing it was a lie.

I wasn’t disappointed in the three barns. I had some clouds and everything was lit up nicely. But I wasn’t completely sure I got what i was looking for. 


JF4 4687The Three Red Barns – 1/20s @ f16 44mm ISO125

These barns are a favorite spot for photographers. It’s a spectacular vista as you come off of Last Dollar Road. There are probably hundreds of thousands of photos out there. Probably very much like this one, but then again, all different. But I don’t think this had the heartbeat I was looking for.

I decided to continue up Last Dollar Rd and I found I was stopping at least 8 times in every mile to take photos. I felt I needed to at least start my way back to town by 3pm in order to find out where we were meeting and get my gear all ready to go. Now, I really only had 3 hours.

Then, my heart says, “Oh, a grove of Aspens lining the road, STOP!”

And my brain goes, “If you keep doing this, you will be late and you have no idea where you are supposed to going yet to even be late to it.”

And my heart responds: “Ooooh, mountains! Get out your polarizing filter”

Oh yeah, crap, I have a polarizing filter, and it’s not on.

Cloud On HillCloud over Mountain1/30s @ f11 52mm ISO160

And the dance continued up the mountain…

Pure as sunlight in the snow
Like a thorn, it’s buried in my soul
A couple days is not enough to tell
If I lost myself, it’s just as well
And as the fading sunlight drops below
Another day and then I’ll have to go

Posted Keep Out1/50s @ f11 18mm ISO100

Pure as sunlight in the rain
Like a drug, it it’s buried in my brain
A couple days is not enough at all
But it’s ok, I’m not too high to fall.
And if I left my heart up there to sell
I might buy my ticket out of hell


The effect the polarizer had on some of the photos was dramatic.

Here is a comparison between one and the other.

Not polarized1/125s @ f10 90mm ISO200

Polarizing makes clouds and the colors pop, but you lose a stop of light. But there was plenty of light. But it works the best 90 degrees to the sunshine and not as well with wide angle. Use one judiciously.

Eventually, I had to give up and get back to Telluride. I was near 58P again, like the night before, so I took that again through the switchbacks into Sawpit. This time in the light.

And my heart goes, “Cattle farm, mountains, aspens, oooooh!”

Ok, then. My brain has given up at this point. Logic does not exist. Time is only gravity in space. (that was for you, Steve B.)

Last Dollar Rd. Cattle RanchCattle Ranch on Last Dollar Mountain1/125s @ f11 38mm ISO100

Last stop: Bouldering with Michael Clark

JF4 5003JF4_5003

Red Bull in hand as expected, Michael Clark met us all in front of the Sheridan Opera House in Telluride at 4pm. Two members of my morning excursion were with us. Our goal was to journey out to some large boulders West of town to learn some techniques on shooting climbers, using fill light and accent lights, etc. Our subjects were Nick Niebuhr and Chris Brooks, two local climbers who were very patient dealing with the group of us as we clicked and circled them like hungry paparazzi.

JF4 4941Nick and Chris1/50s @ f8 62mm ISO800

I got to carry a suitcase full of lighting equipment up the hill to where we were shooting. As a manly man, I trudged full speed up the slope. Then I slowed a little, oxygen levels getting low, my feet wrote a check that my lungs couldn’t cash. But I had to make it. It was only 30 more feet. I made it eventually, panting and wheezing like a asthmatic runner in a sawdust factory. Kim came up to me and patted me on the back and asked if I was ok. (She’s from Durango, btw so this must be kid’s stuff for her)

“I’m a low lander”, I replied. “But I’ll be ok”.

Thank you for caring, Kim.

As for the photo shoot, the rules were pretty simple:

  1. Get them and the environment (including the ground) in the shot
  2. Get both hands and both feet in the shot
  3. Get them in a transitional stage (not hanging or posing)
  4. Get them in good light
  5. Get their face

I was doing ok, I guess.


Small crevices and fingertip-width ledges are all the clibmers need to move up the side of the boulder – 1/125s @ f8 26mm ISO1250

Next Hold

Nick Climbs1/60s @ f4.2 38mm ISO2000

Then I start taking off-time shots

Down TimeChris and Nick Wait1/60s @ f4 50mm ISO125

then I start getting more creative.


Small crevices and fingertip-width ledges are all the clibmers need to move up the side of the boulder – 1/160s @ f6.3 250mm ISO800


then, I just threw the rules out the window completely

JF4 4947

Chris on Angle1/60s @ f8 18mm ISO800

Maybe I didn’t learn anything.


Chalking up hands before free climbing – 1/100s @ f5.6 105mm ISO800

Or, maybe I didn’t go there to learn anything.

I went there to experience it.

I’ll probably never be an action photographer,

but it’s fun to pretend it’s possible.

But no, I did learn something important

Rule #6: When shooting, don’t stand behind Michael

JF4 5017

Give me a Hand1/60s @ f5.6 38mm ISO2000


It started getting dark

Michael persuaded Nick to climb with his shirt off.

Then I felt really, really fat all of a sudden.



Nick Climbs 21/60s @ f4.8 52mm ISO2000

I guess there’s your heartbeat, ladies.

We all traded information afterwards and disappeared into our own lives again. I finally was able to get some sleep that night. My heartbeat was not noticeable at all that night and I slept. My flight out was at 1:30pm so I had plenty of time to walk around Telluride and take one more stab at the Three Barns shot on the way back.

Blackbird on Roof

A blackbird sits on a house in Telluride, CO – 1/320s @ f6.3 250mm ISO100Painting Telluride

Painting Telluride1/320s @ f6.3 250mm ISO100

This one I like because I used to drive this as a kid. Without the flowers. This is a real man’s 4×4. In order to lock the hubs in front, you have to get out and turn the dimpled dials on the front axle. With your bare hands.


With clouds rolling in, I eventually got my “Three Barns” shot.

Three Barns at the End

On the southern end of Last Dollar Rd.

Three Barns Revisited1/30s @ f11 18mm ISO100 with split ND filter to add drama to the clouds

And on the way back to Montrose, I ran into another “young” older person who made the mistake of taking his Lamborghini out of first gear.

My last photo put the period at the end of the trip. My heart yells one last time as I pull over to the side, take this photo,

Dallas Divide RanchDallas Divide1/50s @ f11 52mm ISO100

 and then watch the guy in the Lamborghini lumber past in first gear with 5 cars impatiently trailing behind him.

In love with the sky
I feel with my eyes
And the solid ground
And to my surprise
I melt with the ice
But I never die

Thanks for reading, please comment and share if you liked it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *