Outdoor Furniture Art

On the way home from Great Sand Dunes National Park, we stopped in Buena Vista for a spot of lunch.  Buena Vista is a cute little mountain town that’s in the middle of reviving their riverfront property along the Arkansas River.  What’s emerging in that pocket of town is really, really cool.  They’re doing an excellent job with mixing styles of architecture, keeping the historic buildings, making things pedestrian friendly, and giving the area some charm with cute shops and restaurants within the residential neighborhood.  We liked Buena Vista before, but this little chunk of town is really turning into something.

During this year’s stop in town, some new art had been installed – seating areas made to look like living rooms but made entirely out of decorative tiles and mosaic work.  It was so fun and funky!  While I might not want to sit on this stuff on a bright, sunny, hot day for risk of searing my tush off, it’s quite something to look at.

Sit a Bit

Stay a While

Fun and as cute as the sets are on their own, you really start to marvel when you get in close on the detail.  There’s a ton of intricate mosaic work or painted tiles on each piece.  Unfortunately, we had some time constraints on our drive home, so I couldn’t take it all in, but I did get a few shots of those details.

Mosaic Madness

Oh, Kitty

Here, Doggy

Just another fun find along our annual journey to and from Great Sand Dunes!

 

– JC

Art Around Town

First, a quick bit of background:  Longmont is growing as a destination for artists to hone their crafts.  It’s become so big in creative circles and known for the variety of art around that Longmont’s downtown area was recently certified as a Colorado Creative District!  Getting that designation was a long time coming and it was a big deal when they finally landed it since it made Longmont the 12th official certified Creative District in Colorado!

Back in the day, I thought having the art around town was just a nice touch.  Something to make things pretty or cute as you’re walking around town.  Over the years, as pieces on public display have changed, it’s been fun to see some really cool works go on display – especially when they’re works I know I could never conceive myself.  It’s taught me a new appreciation for different forms of art I may not have noticed or been interested in before.

While shooting the “Play the Plaza” installation the other week, I did catch what I think is a new piece on display in the area around the St. Vrain Historical Society headquarters.  It was a tall and fairly slender white stone sculpture called “Protection” by Jade Windell.  The structure and curves in it reminded me a lot of the First Nation totem poles we saw during our trip to Vancouver last year.

Luckily for me, the light was hitting it in such a way I thought I could make a couple of dramatic black & white shots of sections of the sculpture:

I think I need to go back and really fiddle with some shots with this sculpture on a bright & shiny day to get sharper shadow lines that could create some extra drama.  Considering my goal was merely testing out my camera on whatever was around town that afternoon, not bad for a quick snag of a few shots.

My test shots weren’t done just yet though.  As we were almost back at the car and ready to head home, we walked through one of the cute alley ways and passed benches covered with mosaic tile that we’ve probably passed hundreds of times before.  But on this day, my eyes were a little more attuned to what was around me.

I noticed that the one of the benches was sponsored by the computer hardware & storage company Seagate.  (Seagate is one of the larger employers in town.)  Being that my schooling was focused on computer engineering back in the day, the first thing I noticed was the binary numbers incorporated along the edge of the mosaic.  Very cool!

Binary Bench Mosaic
Binary Bench Mosaic

My binary-to-decimal conversion skills aren’t nearly as sharp as they were – gasp! – 20 years ago when I started college, but I did take a shot at converting the numbers to decimal.  Best I can tell, the numbers on the left (from top to bottom) are 4, 6, 1, 5, 1.  The numbers on the right (top to bottom) are 6 and 5.

Not sure what – if any – significance there is to those numbers.  Of course, I’m assuming the breaks in the tile are also breaks in the binary strings and that I should read the numbers top-to-bottom.  Maybe they’re really huge numbers (9897 on the left, 53 on the right)?  Maybe I’m reading them backwards and should be reading bottom-up?  See what kind of questions art can provoke even in the most techno-centric minds?!

Maybe one of these days I’ll get an answer to my binary inquires.  For now, I’ll just continue to enjoy the different art pieces as they pop-up throughout the town we’re fortunate enough to call home.

 

– JC

Warped Perspective

Don’t worry – this post isn’t some deep, meaningful, philosophical, thoughtful spew of perspective on the world.  I’m merely talking about perspective in photos and how tools – cough, Photoshop – can help with that.

For years, I’ve wanted to get shots of a plaque embedded in the sidewalk of downtown Longmont of the original map of those who founded the town ages ago.  Since it’s in the middle of the sidewalk, you can’t really get straight ahead on top of it to get a shot at the right angle without too much skew in the lines.  Bummer for me because it’s a pretty cool inlay.  (Remember – I’m also married to a self-professed map geek.)

While I was shooting the “Play the Plaza” art installation, I figured I’d take a stab at snagging a shot or two of this map in the sidewalk.  I’ve waited this long, so why not?

Since I wasn’t carrying a ladder to setup in the middle of downtown, the best I could do was stand on the edge of a stone flowerbed nearby.  That gave me this shot:

Original Shot of the Longmont Chicago Colorado Colony Map
Original Shot of the Longmont Chicago Colorado Colony Map

Detail was certainly good enough, but the perspective wasn’t thrilling me.  I knew in the back of my head that Photoshop’s Puppet Warp feature might be able to help me here – so long as I had the patience to place and move pins around to get the image to look right without skewing it entirely out of whack!

Cut to later that afternoon and I’m processing all my shots from the day when I get up to this one with the map.  What to do, what to do?  I make my usual toning adjustments, some sharpening, etc. and then tackle the big one – how to change that perspective?

Well, with my new camera’s arrival, that meant a long-delayed Photoshop upgrade for me.  (Fantastic – just one more minor thing to learn while I figure out the new equipment…)  I went poking around to see where Puppet Warp went hiding in the menus of the latest software and I saw an entry for “Perspective Warp”.  Hmmm… certainly sounds useful, if you can believe the name Adobe used for the feature (which isn’t always the case).

Wincing just a little bit, I clicked “Perspective Warp” and waited to see what happened.  Not much – since it was waiting for me to do stuff.  I quickly figured out what it was aiming at and in just a few minutes, I took my original shot and got it looking more or less exactly how I wanted it – like I was on a ladder standing directly on top of it!  (All without googling for tutorials, no less!!)

After some fine tuning and some other clean-up on the image, I ended up with this:

Longmont Chicago Colorado Colony Map
Longmont Chicago Colorado Colony Map

After years of literally walking over this map whenever we’re downtown, I finally got the shot I wanted (with a little help!).  I’m so stoked about how this shot came out that I may end up printing it for display in my home office.

I’m anxious to try Perspective Warp on other scenes down the road and see what results I get.  This picture turned out to be a simple example to work with because it is so linear in nature, but I’m so pleased with the results that I can see how this new tool may help me out down the road when I can’t possibly climb up a tree or a rattlesnake-filled hill to get the exact angle I want on a shot.

– JC

Playing the Plaza

I just need to say this straight out at the start – I love the town we live in!  When we landed in Colorado nearly 3 years ago, I had no idea we’d end up in a place we’re really proud to call home.

We live in a little town called Longmont about a 45 minute drive northwest of Denver and less than an hour’s drive from Rocky Mountain National Park.  We picked this town mainly because of proximity to job markets and RMNP.  Little did we know that the first day we walked through downtown we’d fall in love with it instantly and made it our goal to call this town home.  My husband hadn’t been through the town in 15 years and it grew up – a lot – since then and they’re still doing so many cool and smart things in the town and the community that we just feel so fortunate to be part it.  (Oh – and beer… so much good beer in this town!!)

Last weekend, we popped downtown for a spot of lunch (including yummy beers, of course) and I brought the new camera with me for test shots because I knew there were some lively colorful things downtown that I’d been wanting to get shots of – perfect test subjects for the new sensor and exposure meter I’m getting used to.

This summer, the public art installation around downtown is called “Play the Plaza“.  They’ve taken different childhood games and set them up so they’re larger than life in the alleys and parklets throughout downtown.  Seems like every corner you turn, there’s something to play with or something insanely colorful and fun waiting for you.  Yay interactive art for all ages!!  (Isn’t there a kids’ game with the label of “fun for ages 9 to 99”?  Which game it is eludes me at the moment, but that label certainly applies to “Play the Plaza”.)

Play the Plaza
Play the Plaza

I started with “Candy Lane” – the take-off on “Candy Land”.  I spent most of my time here probably because it was the biggest and most colorful installation.  The setup has spinners every few spaces and people move themselves down the painted sidewalk as the pieces through the different lands to the end of the game about 50-100 feet down the way, curling around the old church that houses the St. Vrain Historical Society.

As we wandered down “Candy Lane”, we noticed they temporarily converted the permanent tables and chairs installed in the parklet to games too – complete with bags attached to each table that hold the game pieces to use on the game boards.

One of the last shots I took near the end of “Candy Lane” was a classic – Tic-Tac-Toe.  The eternal child in me loved spinning the pieces around like a spaz while the adult in me loved the simple industrial elegance of how it was constructed.

Tic-Tac-Toe
Tic-Tac-Toe

Definitely not a bad way to spend some time for a Saturday afternoon.  If you’re located near Longmont, I highly recommend stopping by and checking it all out before it’s gone!

At the risk of being a little cliche, Longmont is our Home Sweet Home…

Home Sweet Home
Home Sweet Home

– JC

 

Unholy Hot Getaway

One of the big things that happened to us over the summer was my husband taking a new job where he gets to build parks and trails and preserve open space (lucky!).  With his vacation allotment about to reset to zero, we took advantage of his little bit of time off between jobs to scoot out of town for a long weekend. Getting away was especially important because other than our long-planned trip to Great Sand Dunes NP, we weren’t sure when we’d be able to get away again.

Since this trip was a last-minute thought, our options for where to go were a little limited because every mountain town’s hotels were fully booked or just insanely expensive.  Eventually, we zeroed in on heading to Grand Junction about a 5 hour drive away from our home so we could see some decidedly different scenery.

We’d only been to Grand Junction once before about 5 or 6 years ago as part of one of our big vacations.  We didn’t spend much time in the town then because we were camping at nearby Colorado National Monument, but we’d heard good things about the town since that trip.  We’re always up for going to new places, so why not check it out?

As departure day got closer, the weekend weather forecast kept getting hotter and hotter.  We were in the middle of a big heat wave in the Denver area, but that was nothing compared to Grand Junction.  Grand Junction is normally hot because it’s lower and flatter and closer to the deserts of Utah, but it’s not usually 105+ degrees every day of a weekend.  (Yowza!)  Knowing the heat would be brutal, we packed up, sucked it up, and got the hell out of town.

Grand Junction itself was pretty cool.  The downtown area was cute with some good shops and a few restaurants.  Just a good general place to hang.  There’s plenty of outdoorsy things to do outside of the city limits, and one of the most well-known attractions is Colorado National Monument.  Even with the ungodly heat, that was where we were going hike at some point in the weekend.  So long as we got an early morning start, it wouldn’t be so bad, right?

Up before dawn and on our way, we picked the Monument Canyon trail that takes you out to the Independence Monument rock formation.  We hiked part of this trail before on our previous trip, but this time we decided to do the same trail again and go a little further out because we had a lot of fun the first time around.

Very quickly we were reminded of how different canyon hiking is from mountain hiking.  With mountain hiking, you start your day climbing uphill and finish it coming downhill with little or no flat spots in between.  Canyon hiking is the exact opposite.  You start at the canyon rim, descend (sometimes rapidly) to the canyon floor, trudge through the flat for a ways, then climb out at the end of your day when you’re dog tired.  In a lot of desert canyons, the floor doesn’t have a lot of trees or shade, so it gets hot – and fast.  By 8am it was already pretty toasty and we were barely an hour into our hike.

Red Hot Day Dawning
Red Hot Day Dawning

Once you reach the canyon floor, it’s fun watching the little details of rock formations, desert plants, and even some critters.  Ecologically it’s so different from the areas we hike in around our home that it’s visually and mentally refreshing in a lot of ways.  We got lucky on this day and even bumped into a nice-sized collared lizard along the trail.  (This guy was colorful and much bigger than the little lizards zipping around all day.)

After a while, we turned around a bend and could finally see our destination – Independence Monument.  (The Kissing Couple formation is just to the left of center in the picture below, with the shorter Independence Monument just to the right of center a little further back in the distance.)

The Destination
The Destination

As I took this picture, here’s a snippet of the conversation I had with myself in my head:

Is it seriously that far away?  Can’t be.

… Damn, it’s hot. …

Really?  It’s still that far away?  We’ve already gone a few miles, so how is that possible?

…. Dear Lord, I think my boots may melt today if we’re not done by noon. …

But if I do this, that justifies having beer and bad-for-me food when we get back to town!  Hmmm…

… Holy hell – this is getting seriously hot.  Can I manage to keep my yap shut about the heat all day to get to the beer and fried food?  I think I can. …

(It’s truly amazing what you can motivate yourself to do by rationalization or visualization.  For me, both rationalization and visualization usually involve food.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve mentally pushed myself through a workout I didn’t want to do in the first place by bargaining with myself using pizza & beer on a Friday night as a bargaining chip!  But I digress…)

We did get to Independence Monument and it was really cool.  I think enough of my brain cells had melted by then that I forgot to get a picture of the rock up close.  Oh well!

Once we got back to our car, we spent the weekend operating like most Southerners do during their sticky, humid summers – dashing between air-conditioned cars and buildings as much as possible.  (Lucky for us we just had the heat to deal with – not that icky humidity added onto the heat!)

In the end, we had a good hike and a fun trip in spite of the wickedly hot weather.  We also zeroed in on where we want to hang out the next time we’re out that way, so maybe it’ll be less than 6 years between trips to Grand Junction this time.

-JC

Mmmm… Green Chile Beer

(Originally posted September 26, 2012)

Green Chile Beer San Luis Valley Brewing
Green Chile Beer San Luis Valley Brewing

One of the many things my husband misses most about Colorado is the beer.  While more Colorado craft beers are becoming available on the East Coast, there’s one style that has yet to arrive – green chile beer.

I’m sure you’re probably thinking to yourself, “What!?  Chile pepper in a beer!?!  Ewwww…”  I know that was my first reaction years ago, but I’ve come to learn that there’s a chile beer out there to fit most tastes because each brewery has their own take on it.

In Denver, Wynkoop has Patty’s Chile beer – light, but sort of spicy.  In Fort Collins, Coopersmith’s has their Sigda’s Green Chile beer – another light style with some zing.  Durango brings us Steamworks’ Prescribed Burn – medium color with tons of chile heat.  And Alamosa has San Luis Valley Brewing Company’s Valle Caliente – a light color beer with minimal heat and all of the flavor of the green chile.

My husband is a connoisseur of all of these chile beers, but I’ll always be partial to SLV’s version.  It’s simply a fantastic beer that tastes even better after a long morning of hiking in massive piles of sand at Great Sand Dunes National Park (located about 45 minutes from the brewery).

The day that this picture was taken, SLV Brewing was our oasis.  Situated in an old bank building in downtown Alamosa, Colorado, the pub gave us warmth, shelter, food, and drink as a a sunny morning in the Valley gave way to a showery afternoon.  We had a fantastic morning of hiking at Dunes before the skies opened, so we topped it off with a trip to town for lunch while we waited for the storms to move through.  By the time we were done, the rain was nearly over and it was time for some late day hiking.

The chile beer never tasted as good as it did that day, especially when paired with a basket of sausage and other snacks!

 

-JC

Rainbows & Farmers Markets

(Originally posted September 23, 2012)

Rainbow Umbrella - Farmer's Market in Golden, CO
Rainbow Umbrella – Farmer’s Market in Golden, CO

If I’m having a bad day, I know I can always count on this picture to cheer me up.

Whenever we’re in Golden, Colorado, we make a point of checking out the farmers market that they host downtown every Saturday during the summer.  It’s a small, but really nice, farmers market with the requisite touches of the Colorado vibe – most people are walking around with their dog, kids are riding in buggies attached to the back of their parents’ mountain bikes, chile peppers are being roasted fresh on site, and an old western horse-drawn carriage takes folks on free rides through historic downtown.  They have something to offer everyone, and for us, that’s the food!

People may not think of Colorado as a place where there are a lot of farms because of the mountains, but the state produces gobs of great produce and some of it comes to Golden each summer weekend.  For us, it simply turns into an easy breakfast.  And while I may have a taste of the fresh fruit and the veggies, my sweet tooth usually makes a beeline for the fresh bakery goodies!  (Side note – I always marvel at how this particular bakery is able to churn out so many great breads & pastries at altitude because baking can be really hard to do well in Colorado… but that’s a different story for a different time!)

On this day, our trip to the farmers market involved breakfast as usual and we scored some seats at one of the tables scattered throughout the lot.  While we were munching away, the sensationally bright colors of the umbrella at our table caught my eye.

No matter how many times I look at this picture, every time I see it, it makes me smile.  Hopefully it brightens your day a little too…

 

-JC