Through The Lens - Lloyd's Lens

Every picture is an adventure. From getting to the ideal spot and capturing the ultimate shot, to refining, sharing, and reflecting, each photo has a story beyond the 1,000 words of its worth. This photo-journal/blog is to elaborate on the experiences in my photography and the feelings behind each image. 

Briefly about me, my name is Lloyd and I am a Colorado Native. My passion is being in the mountains of Colorado, specifically in the San Juans. As soon as I could drive, I would make solo weekend journeys here from Colorado Springs. Often driving 40 hours between Friday night and Sunday night to make it to and over the mountains from Lake City to Telluride and back on the many 4x4 trails in the area. My goal was to cover as much ground as possible while exploring Colorado's best kept secret.


I am now lucky enough to live here in Dolores, Colorado on the western edge of the San Juans. My family and I are running the Sophia Retreat and Event Center. We offer the space for growth and transformation. A catalyst for the betterment of all who visit. From the life coach helping people find fulfillment in themselves, to the business owner seeking regeneration of teamwork and creativity, our purpose is to provide a safe, secluded, beautiful place for you to teach and connect with your audience. Check out the link above to learn more!


When we aren't growing the business, I am in the mountains exploring and taking pictures, mountain biking, or skiing in Telluride. 


Enjoy the entries below and please feel free to comment!


1. Alta Lakes Panorama 9/23/15

A new chapter, a new place! In my travels, I had been near Alta Lakes, but never to them. Armed with my new to me Nikon D610, a bigger SD card, and a new ball head tripod, I set out with three intentions: Explore a new place, capture a mountain lake reflection, and create my first full size panorama

Mission accomplished, but not without obstacles (literally). Alta Lakes is a fairly popular and populated by San Juan standards. All of the ideal spots were taken at both lakes, so I had to get creative. Creative means go where other people aren't, and there is usually a reason for that.

Racing the earth's rotation and crawling through narrow, rugged, muddy trail in tight trees presented and interesting challenge in my 3/4 ton Excursion. I slung some mud (in my face, in the truck, in Sway's face etc.), pushed the limits of my ground clearance, and enhanced my hurried 4-wheeling capabilities to finally find my spot.

Part of the challenge was unforeseen as I am a novice at this type of shot. The closer you are, the less the lens can capture, but you have to be close and at the right angle to get the reflection. The challenge of a small body of water surrounded by trees, and towering rock peaks. I am partial to landscape oriented pictures, primarily because I can use them for my desktop wallpaper :). It was impossible to get the mountains and their reflection in a landscape orientation. I was so successful in finding this magical place to meet my goals, that I couldn't capture it.

So, I trusted my new tripod and estimated what I needed for a panorama before proceeding with the traditional, tried and true shots. Check out the gallery here.

After the sun finished setting, I just stood there for a while recovering from the excitement and the insatiable push to capture the perfect moment in time. WOW! What an unbelievable place! I was just below one of the highest points of Telluride Ski Resort, but on the back side. The smell of camp fires mixed with the smell of the changing Aspens and pine wafting in the cold air coming off the water as the Trout snagged dinner off of the surface. And apart from the occasional noise of the forest, or the fish, silence.

This is why I am here! The unimaginable beauty of the San Juan Mountains, the inner peace of being in nature, the mystery, majesty, and power of the mountains. There is nothing more inspiring to me!

Thoughts of tomorrow start to creep in. I have to be back at Sophia in the morning... It's Sunday night, I 've lost track of time, I'm in challenging terrain, and I am not exactly where I want to camp. Plus, I wasn't done taking pictures, and my spot didn't lend itself to night time photography or ideal shots of the sunrise. Sway and I loaded back up, turned on all the lights and crawled back out of the forest and started looking for the right camp site. We ended up exploring another new place called Gold King Basin. It is a narrow, fairly rough shelf road that tucks you in against massive rock walls with a view of Mt. Wilson, the rest of the San Juans, and the valley around Telluride. It is worthy of its own post.

Skipping to tonight, I found software from Microsoft called Image Composite Editor to stitch my Panorama shots together. It took the right settings, and memory management. My computer can hardly handle the quality of and size of these images. It's an awesome problem to have, but creates additional challenges. Luckily, I kept the tripod level and overlapped the images appropriately to create my final product. 

Camera Model: Nikon D610

Resolution: 16033 X 5674

F-Stop: 1/8

Exposure time: 1/60 sec.

ISO speed: ISO-450

Focal Length: 50mm

Max Aperture: 1.6

Date Taken: 9/20/15 7:03 PM



2. Sunset Reflections 9/27/15

Alta Lakes Sunset

Sunset Reflection on the upper Alta Lake.

Another milestone! Taken in the same place as the Panorama above, with the same story, this is my favorite picture to date! It captures the magnitude, the beauty, and the wild nature of the San Juan Mountains. This high alpine environment of magnificence and abundance is in transition towards the six months it will send as a frozen, inhospitable oasis under stories of Colorado snow.

Yet, through this time of dormancy comes a new cycle, a new breath of life and a high alpine ecosystem as a gift from the violent and often deadly winter storms that it will endure.

This picture will always have a special place in my heart and I will always remember the feelings of joy, excitement, success, and pride as I stood on the bank reviewing what I had captured and reveled in the majesty of this special spot. The smell of the water, pine, and the distinct aroma of fall, the silence broken by rainbow trout penetrating the surface of the lake, and that stinging tinge of winter flowing down the steep rock faces, across the water, and illuminating change as the only constant are imprinted in this picture and I will always feel it.

Reminding me that every second on the earth is a gift that I cherish!

Camera: Nikon D610

Resolution: 6016x4016

F-stop: f/7.1

Exposure Time: 1/20 sec.

Focal Length: 50 mm

Max Aperture: 1.6

Date Taken: 9/20/2015 7:11 PM



3. Good Morning Trout Lake 10/1/15

My favorite from this week's trip! I spent the majority of the previous evening  in this spot capturing the sunset, but I stopped again on my way home and got the one that means the most to me. There is nothing like a cool, fall morning in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. It is just a special feeling! This photo has me instantly reminiscing on the great night I had enjoying a magnificent camp site tucked up under that waterfall in the distance, a ton of beautiful photos, and a morning hike with Sway. But, more importantly, upon a glance, I feel the love and connection I have with these mountains, and the gratitude for getting to live here and experience their majesty on a weekly basis. Sometimes, my dog and my camera are the only witnesses to the experiences I have had here, but there's nothing I would change, and it is an honor to use my photography as a means to share these experiences with you!


Camera Model: Nikon D610

Resolution: 6016x3717

F-Stop: f/10

Exposure Time: 1/320 sec.

ISO Speed: ISO-200

Focal Length: 50MM

Max Aperture: 1.6

Date Taken: 9/29/15 9:40 AM


4. Flow of Change 10/3/15

Taken in another time of significant transition in my life, this photo reminds me of the beauty in the flow of change. In the shadows of morning in Ground Hog Gulch below the majestic peaks of the western San Juan Mountains of Colorado, it was a steep hike to get to this spot, but well worth the commitment. These shots are often difficult to achieve, but occasionally the right framing, lighting, and exposure come together to illuminate one of the most vital offerings of the earth. A high elevation landscape able to collect, freeze, and store 6 months of precipitation before bestowing it on the land below. Today, this channel is calm, mild and beautiful, but in April it will be powerful, violent, and dangerous.  A metaphorical analogy for finding the gifts concealed in the chaos of change. Like the flow of water, change is constant, and in some seasons and storms, it flows faster than in others. However, it is always carrying the abundance of growth and new beginnings.

Etched in this photo, I can feel the cool sting of a late September morning, the fall smell of aspen and pine, and the sounds of water descending from it's beautiful purpose above. The excitement, foreboding, and the energy preceding nature's most violent season is palpable, yet, just slightly concealed, is the promise of a fresh flow of abundance and the re-birth of life to come. An encouragement that life is always getting better!

Camera Model: Nikon D610

Resolution: 6016x3866

F-Stop: f/7.1

Exposure Time: 1/25 sec.

Focal Length: 50mm

Max Aperture: 1.6

Date Taken: 9/29/2015 8:34 AM



5. The First Snow 10/7/2015

For me, the first snow of each year is like the first snow of my life. I love it! It is a large part of what makes the fall my favorite season. 

The night before I took this picture, I discovered snow on the peaks, and I was off like a rocket to the highest campsite in my repertoire. One goal, get my tires in snow! It poured rain on the highway as I gained altitude, knowing that I would get to enjoy all of that precipitation a second time when I got to camp. As expected, It snowed the entire time I was there. Cold, wet, and intimidating at times, but I loved it! A step into the unknown, a test of my preparation, planning, and my ability to improvise and adapt. Not to mention, a gold mine of photo opportunities.

When is the best time to go to one of the most touristy high alpine spots near Telluride? When the weather is harsh and you're standing in 2-4 inches of slushy mud, dancing around the fire that you needed gasoline light as the chaotic Colorado wind blows an early season mixture of snow and rain at your resolve. But, guess what, no camp fires around Alta Lakes, no other people, wilderness. And, of course, a very personal, first hand experience of the power of nature. The balance of seasons.

This particular view is of Trout Lake in the morning. It is the one I wanted to write about first. It summarizes the success of a unique adventure, the joy of fall, and the incredible inspiration of the mountains. The desire to put myself in a potentially dangerous, and certainly undesirable position just to get the feel their power. A picture of opportunity, excitement, gratitude, inspiration, and joy! 

Check out my gallery to see more photos from this adventure!

Camera Model: Nikon D610

Resolution: 8609 x 5738

F-Stop: f/11

Exposure Time: 1/500 sec.

ISO speed: ISO-160

Focal Length - 50mm

Date Taken: 10/6/2015 11:25 AM



6. Rocky Vista 10/15/15

It is difficult to communicate the sheer awe of this campsite, with words or photos. Perched on the edge of a cliff, tucked away in the trees with a waterfall running across the 4x4 road and off into the forest below, the majestic row of peaks in the distance gain a new feeling of grandeur. The mountains are fairly easy to capture from this elevated spot with a view of the miles of pristine national forest shadowed by the massive peaks that create Lizardhead pass. A tripod, good timing, and a few camera settings can create extremely rewarding photos. However, they bring just 1/4 of the majesty to life and capturing the other dynamic aspects of my favorite spot are quite a bit more complicated. I work on them each time I visit this spot. 

This image was taken a mere 10 ft. from the truck and fire pit and is the first successful shot of the other aspects of what it is like to be here. The lighting and indicate details of nature make it stand out to me. The San Juans are a young and raw mountain range that can make you feel very small and humble. They breed a respect for the land and a respect for our place on it. The jagged rocks, massive trees, and the depth of this steep, rocky outcropping, with morning lighting compel my curiosity and illuminate the rugged magnificence of this special spot. Does the picture speak to you? See more images of Bolam Pass and my favorite camp spot here: Bolam Pass Gallery

Camera Model: Nikon D610

Resolution: 6016 X 4016

F-Stop: F/6.3

Exposure Time: 1/160 sec.

ISO speed: ISO-200

Focal Length: 50mm

Date Taken: 10/13/2015 8:14 AM




7. Tomboy Bride

The mountains of Colorado, especially the San Juan Mountains are an inspirational passion of mine. The curiosity and awe inspiring grandeur, combined with the contrast of serenity and powerfully violent storms, compels me to experience the mountains in all conditions and to learn every detail of their history.

My favorite pass and area to explore is called Imogene Pass, which runs over the mountains from Telluride to Ouray. It's a long and steep road requiring careful driving through some of the most rugged mountains in the lower 48. It creates an indescribable feeling and causes an eruption of humility, gratitude, and excitement. Like my heart is going to swell out of my chest.

I recently discovered a book called "Tom Boy Bride". It spoke to me in a way that no other book has and lit a new fire in my passion for these mountains. Taking place in the early 1900's, the book is a first hand account from an assayer's wife learning to live in Savage Basin above Telluride. While the story also relates her travels in Britannia, BC, Elk City, Idaho, and Leadville, Colorado, my fascination is consumed by her time at the Tomboy mine. They lived their year round, dealing with 10 -  20 ft. of snow through the winter, which often lingers well into August. In fact, we use D9 Bulldozers in mid-July to open the passes in the area for summer Tourism. Yet they used horses, mules, and true, individual, human ingenuity to survive and prosper just below the timberline.

Through the accounts of avalanches, outlaws, unbelievable storms, and the tragedies of humanity, she always alluded to her gratitude for the peace, serenity, simplicity, and magic of living in the mountains. There aren't many tougher or more dangerous places you could live in nature than where they did, but between the lines I can feel the same passion that I share. The passion that makes going out in massive blizzards exciting, and navigating the unpredictable, unforgiving mountains a rewarding challenge.

Clearly, my life is substantially easier, healthier, and longer, but there is a large part of me that longs to experience these mountains as an early frontiersman. In that regard, Tomboy Bride is a cherished gift, connecting the history of this area and the passion for the mountains that runs deep in the blood of their most loyal inhabitants across time. 

I highly recommend this book and have begun a search for other first hand, historical accounts of life in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado, before the west was tamed. If you decide to read the book, you can compare the pictures from this post with the pictures that she included.

The first picture (top right) is from above Savage Basin looking toward Telluride. The story took place literally 2000 ft straight down below where I took this picture. You can see the road descending down to Telluride.

The second, of the leaning building, is close to what they called the flats. I am not 100% sure of the accuracy, but I know it's close. I know all of the original buildings are gone, but you can see the foundation for the mill and other artifacts all over the basin.

The picture of the trucks was taken in Early August on the road that they took to Ptarmigan lake in the story. As you can see, snow was a significant issue.

The photo of the white SUV is to the east from the top of the pass. When she talks about endless mountains of various colors, that's what she was looking at.

The next photo is toward the North on the Ouray side toward Yankee Boy and Governor Basin. You can see the pass fall sharply below on the way to the Camp Bird Mine, which was also in the story.

In their last summer at the Tomboy, the went on horseback to Ptarmigan lake, which is the next picture. This is by far the most magical and compelling place that I have ever been.If you study it closely , you can see why that part of the story ended tragically.

The last two photos are of the road between Telluride and Savage Basin (Imogene Pass). The truck is in the tunnel that she talked about and included pictures of. She describes it as barely taller than the mules ears, indicating that it has been expanded since 1906, and the one against the wall is where she described the sheer terror of being on the edge of a cliff and is also in close proximity to the spring they had to cut out to let the horses drink.



8. Colorado Blue 11/13/15

Azure Colorado Sky at Alta Lakes 11-1-15

Have you ever gazed into the azure skies of Colorado on a cool, cloudless day? 

There is something special about it. I don't know if it's just the color, the thin, dry air, the proximity of 14,000 ft. peaks, the latitude, or all of the above. All I know is that when I step outside and take a deep breath of that cool, clear air, and my eyes adjust to the bright depth of blue, I feel instantly calmed and rejuvenated. 

Those are the feelings for me in this picture. As the sun fades on the cusp of winter in the San Juans, it's like breathing purity. It's silent, except for the occasional trout breaking the surface of one of the Alta Lakes. A silence unique to frozen, rugged landscapes in the middle of nowhere. The temperature is plummeting, and the frosty smell of pine, combined with the other high alpine aromas is overwhelming. It's time to prepare for the cold of the night.

Camera Model: Nikon D610

Resolution: 6016 X 3634

F-Stop: f/10

Exposure time: 1/200 Sec.

ISO Speed: ISO-400

Focal Length: 50mm

Date Taken: 11/1/15 6:01 PM


9. Range to Range at Devil's Point

It's December, and we are buried in snow, feet of snow, from an unrelenting storm pattern. The sun has peeked out, revealing the massive plow piles, smooth powder fields, and hard packed, icy roads. I have had the honor of living in the San Juan Mountains for over a year now, and I intend to spend the rest of my time here. This area, and these mountains are exactly where I want to be! No vacations and no travelling is necessary. It's an obsession. Limitless discovery, exploration, and majestic beauty tucked away from the mainstream and protected by rugged terrain, harsh weather, and formidable distances.

This photo brings me some mid-august warmth, and an additional shot of motivation to explore every nook and cranny of these mountains in all seasons. It is of a unique view, taken from the northern end of the La Plata Mountains, a sub range,  looking at the Southern Edge of the main San Juan Mountains. It has nearly taken the whole time that I have lived here to gain a strong grasp of the difference between the two, to understand their separate histories, characters, and how the road navigates between them. The main ranges of the San Juans, East and West, were from a large volcanic field that began creation of the mountains 30 million years ago, while the La Plata Mountains are said to be much younger.  

Today, when the picture came across the screen, I noticed that the mountains on the right side were the same view as my favorite spot up on Bolam Pass. This didn't seem possible given the distance between the two. After cross referencing the pictures and using Google Earth to create a perspective between the peaks, and these two seemingly disconnected locations, I've realized the severity of this mountain terrain makes short distances very long. For instance, it is 24 miles from Devil's point to San Miguel Peak on the center white line, and it follows the elevation profile below the map. It is difficult to imagine the obstacles that you would face attempting it, and truly as the crow flies, it may be impossible. In addition, you can see highway 145 and US highway 550 in the same small view, yet getting between them, or following the loop is a minimum of 4 hours driving.Yet, if you were standing there with me, you say there is no way that we are that close to the highway, or anything civilized for that matter. Truly a desolate wilderness if you aren't looking at a map.

For me, this picture represents a lot, it is one of the first with my new camera, and the beginning my realization of the next level of photography for me. In addition, it was a new view of the untamed, mountain wilderness at my fingertips. A pleasant reminder that no matter how long I am here, these mountains will always have a surprise in store for me. A new experience, a different feeling, a new place, and another photo to convey my passion for them. 

As 2015 comes to a close, it was a turning point year, one that I'll always remember as the beginning of a new journey. The expansion of potential, and the solidification of the passions that define my life. A decision to let go of the reigns and to allow the flow of life to bestow the next blessings, which it has abundantly. What I have captured in this photo is not just a summer afternoon view of a majestic mountain vista towering over acres of beautiful forest encrusted with red rocks and various vegetation, but gratitude, opportunity, and abundance. It represents my passion for the mountains, and my unyielding drive to explore, experience, and connect with them. Here's to a great 2016! 

Camera Model: Nikon D610

Resolution: 6016 X 3538

F-Stop: f/8

Exposure time: 1/250 Sec.

ISO Speed: ISO-100

Focal Length: 50mm

Date Taken: 8/16/15 2:09 PM


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