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Our 3rd and 4th days we’re spent camping and canoeing through Santa Elena Canyon. This was a captivating experience and immediately I knew it wouldn’t be our last trip.

Canyon walls framed this star shot at 3am

Canyon walls framed this star shot, cropping Orion at 3am

Light floods in over the walls and then in the next bend your floating in shadows. This presented it’s own challenges shooting with my Sony a6000 as I am using all old full manual Nikkor 25mm and 35mm prime lenses. These lenses are great for static shots, but with our boat moving and then our river partners boat moving it wasn’t easy to get the focus dialed. Thus, most of my “action” shots didn’t make it into this batch of photos. I do really enjoy the subtle cool whites these lenses achieve though, seen in the photograph below @ right corner.

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My favorite co-pilot Michelle, steady’s the boat for a river portrait.

 

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Our campsite for night 3, now bathed in morning light

Once the sun broke over the East canyon wall Kody jumped in for an invigorating morning bath

Once the sun broke over the East canyon wall Kody jumped in for an invigorating morning bath

 

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Each bend in the canyon offers a new cascade of light and shadow

Kody and Jenny worked together and steered their 1980’s Mohawk canoe through a bunch of fun Class I & II rapids

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Scouting Rock Slide Rapid

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The river walls are full of features torn into the canyon

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At the canyon’s end, lines in the walls sending you out into the park.

One more entry of photographs to come, all detail shots from the trip! Check back shortly…

Double Exposure, spinning eclipse

Double Exposure, Spinning Eclipse

Michelle and I had done a number of extended trips on the water, but this was our first multi-day excursion in our new old canoe. Paddling through Big Bend National Park, we went from Lajitas through Santa Elena Canyon with our friends Kody and Jenny, soaking in vast starscapes, glowing canyon walls and some fun Class II water. My goal for the trip was to find some desert inspiration for photos and sketches, enjoy the company of good friends and immerse ourselves in Big Bend’s border waterway the Rio Grande.

Kody lights up the wall while firelight dances orange through the canyon.

At camp, Kody lights up the wall while firelight dances orange through the canyon.

Loaded down with our gear for a 4 day trip luckily didn’t have to make any significant portages. I had done a lot of new outfitting to the boat to ready for the trip so everything went real smooth and comfy. Organized and prepared we were able to focus on the views and relaxing. Each night our campsites continued to impress us and since we accomplished a 2-3 day trip in 3-4 days we got to spend nearly 2 whole days inside of the canyon. Camping in the canyon was an incredible experience, scroll down to see some of my favorite photos from the trip.

Starting the trip with clear skies and still water.

Starting the trip with clear skies and still water.

 

Setting up our first campsite at dusk

Setting up our first campsite at dusk

 

We awoke to stomping horse hoofs

We awoke to stomping horse hoofs. Rounding our tent and then narrowly passing by this mother horse tried to distract us from her colt across the river.

Excited for day 2, our canoe was ready to float us onward

Excited for day 2, our canoe was ready to float us onward

 

A shallow rapid awaited us at each river bend, most of which at this low flow rate pushed straight into the rivers walls. Here Kody and Jenny navigate one of the more rewarding rapids of the day near a confluence.

A shallow stony rapid awaited us at each river bend, most of which at this low 200cfs  flow rate would push straight into the river’s walls. Here Kody and Jenny navigate one of the more rewarding rapids of the day near a confluence just above our second campsite.

 

Today as it happened was Thanksgiving, so a tasty meal of stuffing, taters, summer sausage and gravy was served up. Great way to celebrate the holiday with friends and a warm sunset.

Today as it happened was Thanksgiving, so after a refreshing skinny dip in the Rio Grande, a tasty meal of stuffing, taters, summer sausage and gravy was served up. Great way to celebrate the holiday with friends and a warm sunset.

 

This was my first chance on the trip to shoot some night shots, since on day one I crawled into my tent at 8PM and crashed…

 

I shot with a few prime lenses this trip, this one a 35mm, so tried to do my cropping by moving forward and backward of the subject. I was excited about this composition reminding me of the small scenes from the corners of landscape romanticism paintings.

 

Rain was in the forecast this morning, as we woke up to a light drizzle. We went on a day hike out to a bluff and a nearby slot canyon.

Rain was in the forecast this morning, as we woke up to a light drizzle. We went on a day hike out to a bluff and a nearby slot canyon. Michelle poses with her trusty “snack pack”, cheesing it up for the camera with Jenny. Traveling with Michelle is a constant inspiration to stop and enjoy the details of what is around you. Here she teaches us about Resurrection moss and leafing Ocotillo.

 

Barrel cactus sprouts and retains water in this harsh scape

Beautiful pink thorny Barrel cactus sprouts and retains water in this harsh scape

PART 2 posting soon: entering the canyon via canoe, more night shots, impressive canyon views and some sketches to share.

All shots are taken manual from a Sony a6000 with a suite of vintage 25mm & 35mm prime lenses.

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West Contrabando Dark Sky Site

We recently spent a long weekend in Big Bend soaking in the massive night skies and glowing morning sunrises out of our tent.

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Lunch time view between rides, Pen and Ink, BBRSP

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Love this candid of Michelle looking up from the mine shaft

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Big Bend Ranch SP has an abandoned mercury mine out in the park to explore

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Sun baked textures in the desert

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View from Big Bend National Park Hot Springs, Pen and Ink

Everything is exposed and sun baked. Topographic features visibly exist on the mountainsides undisturbed by trees. Trails here are dynamic and range from fast flowing, to rocky scree, to jeep roads. The light is dynamic and fun to photograph and the distances enjoyable to sketch from rare spots of shade.
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Michelle and her CHUMBA URSA on Crystal mtn trail, yes, those are all quartz crystals!

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The mine area has some cool artifacts like this ole’Chevy

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Kept my map handy in my Wanderlust Gear Rattlesnake bag, sweet patch from Everything Will Be Noble thanks to Brent Knepper!

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Recent fire damage in the Big Bend Nat. Park, native plants will likely come back strong and happy with new seeds being activated by the fires to grow.

We decided to get away for Thanksgiving, chasing the sunshine and trying to escape the rain storms that swamped Austin. Planning for Big Bend we changed gears last minute and headed for the Dragoon Mountains in south Arizona based on a route we found on Bikepacking.com Before the trip, Suzan Bright gifted me her vintage Nikkor lenses from her college days as a photo major at Pratt. So this trip I shot full manual with 35mm and 105mm Nikkor lenses adapted to my Sony a6000 mirrorless camera. The setup was great as it is very packable and the lenses are fast to change and intuitive to use. The fixed lenses increased my battery life by a long-shot which was great for covering this 3 day trip into the backcountry. [gallery type="square" columns="4" link="file" size="medium" ids="1050,1064,1063,1067"]

Heading to the mountains
Big skies and views
Big skies and views
With Turkey Sausages, stuffing and mashed potatoes we brought some tasty vittles on our ride. We enjoyed our T-day in this field of grasses with a old working windmill and pump well for company.
With Turkey Sausages, stuffing and mashed potatoes we brought some tasty vittles on our ride. We enjoyed our T-day in this field of grasses with a old working windmill and pump well for company.
Sketching at sunset
Sketching at sunset
Conté and charcoal pencil
Conté and charcoal pencil
Rugged granite of the Dragoon Mountains
Rugged granite of the Dragoon Mountains
Challenging hike-a-bike up and over the Cochise Stronghold.
Challenging hike-a-bike up and over the Cochise Stronghold.
Singletrack and views back into the valley are our rewards
Singletrack and views back into the valley are our rewards
My trusty steed: CHUMBA USA STELLA, with Shimano XT 11speed, Maxxis 27plus Rekon tires and complete Multi-cam bikepacking bagset from Wanderlust Gear.
My trusty steed: CHUMBA USA STELLA, with Shimano XT 11speed, Maxxis 27plus Rekon tires and complete Multi-cam bikepacking bagset from Wanderlust Gear.
Enjoying the trail off the backside of the mountain.
Enjoying the trail off the backside of the mountain.
"It gets flat over there."
"It gets flat over there."
A hard day of pushing and riding had us setting up camp sore and tired. The stars and clear night sky were a delight to enjoy during dinner and stretching.
A hard day of pushing and riding had us setting up camp sore and tired. The stars and clear night sky were a delight to enjoy during dinner and stretching.
Thanks to Postmaster Bill for the photo, he's got one heck of a view. I rode back into town to fix a flat. Luckily the small town hardware store had flat kits, since mine was resting nicely back in the truck...
Thanks to Postmaster Bill for the photo, he's got one heck of a view. I rode back into town to fix a flat. Luckily the small town hardware store had flat kits, since mine was resting nicely back in the truck...
Michelle is enjoying her first bikepacking trip.
Michelle is enjoying her first bikepacking trip.
Kody and Jenny roll through another road lined with cottony desert brush.
Kody and Jenny roll through another road lined with cottony desert brush.
There's a jail over thar
There's a jail over thar
"Joe Bono's" abandoned historic building provided some nice shade while we supped on the last of our food stores.
"Joe Bono's" abandoned historic building provided some nice shade while we supped on the last of our food stores.
***POP ROCKS***
***POP ROCKS***
Historic Gleeson Jail, one of a few old jails we saw on the route.
Historic Gleeson Jail, one of a few old jails we saw on the route.
Big wheels = Big smiles
Big wheels = Big smiles
Michelle, happy to be rolling the smooth downhill back to town. The Dragoon Mountains we rode over rest in the background.
Michelle, happy to be rolling the smooth downhill back to town. The Dragoon Mountains we rode over rest in the background.
and the rode into the sunset.
and they rode into the sunset.
Cold beers back in historic Tombstone, where the whole town greeted us in costume!
Cold beers back in historic Tombstone, where the whole town greeted us in costume!

Vincent Colvin CHUMBA ARIZONA COCHISE-5301

Thanks to CHUMBA USA for the unstoppable bikes, Wanderlust Gear for our flawless bikepacking bagsets, Maxxis for our burly test tires, Smith Optics for our stly'in helmets and Shimano for our smooth new XT 11 speed drivetrains! Our mix of gear certainly made for a reliable trip!

I am excited to finally have my studio together at our new home. I’ve spent the last year+ focused on sketching off of my bike during trips throughout the US and abroad in Ecuador. I’ll be continuing to seek inspiration through new biking trips coming up to Colorado, Big Bend, TX and Arizona. Some of the sketches will find their way into bigger drawings and paintings in my studio. I’ll be updating the blog with the drawings that the views inspired and a few of my favorite photographs from the trips. Thanks to CHUMBA USA and Wanderlust Gear for all the support!

Working from field studies back in the studio

Working from field studies back in the studio.

Sketching during a brief break in Big Bend, never even got off my riding glove.

Sketching during a brief break in Big Bend, never even got off my riding glove.

View back to Papallacta from climbing up Cayambe Coca, Ecuador

View back to Papallacta from climbing up Cayambe Coca, Ecuador

 

Kody and I are in Breckenridge, Colorado working for CHUMBA USA, an American made mountain bike manufacturer, at the Breck Epic. After spending the week supporting our riders and racing ourselves we got a few days off to get into the backcountry. What says recovery after 3 days of racing like 3 days of bikepacking?! We loaded up our bikes with food: avocados, quinoa, dried beans, fruit, some candy bars and oatmeal, camping gear, our cameras & sketch books and set off literally into the sunset.

Pushing up the Ten Mile range at sunset after hiking with my bike up to 12000'.

DAY 1: Pushing up to the tree line of the Ten Mile range at sunset, hiking with our bikes up to 12000′.

Finally near the top it is "flat" enough to ride again.

Finally near the top it is “flat” enough to ride again.

The sun is going down but we haven't traversed the peak yet.

The sun is going down, but we haven’t traversed the peak yet.

At the peak at 9:00 PM, the Milky Way is arching right above us.

At the peak at 9:00 PM, the Milky Way is arching right above us, terrain is all bowling ball sized rocks.

After a long night of hiking our bikes down from the peak in the dark, Kody and I slept in until 10 AM and then enjoyed a nice fire, coffee and breakfast.

DAY 2: After a long night of hiking our bikes down from the peak in the dark, Kody and I slept in until 10 AM and then enjoyed a nice fire, coffee and breakfast.

Setting out on the trail again, now enjoying our first hard earned descent.

Recharged we set out on the trail again, now enjoying our first hard earned descent.

Coming up hill I saw this incredible light hitting the grasses and had to stop.

Coming up hill I saw this incredible light hitting the grasses and had to stop.

Inspiration

Inspiration, I love the contrast in textures.

We came up on so many great views but it was easy to choose when to sketch. You just know.

We came up on so many great views, but it was easy to choose when to sketch. You just know. All of the sudden I just had to stop. This happened a number of times, it was very exciting. Luckily, I chose a good riding partner who was equally enthralled with photographing. Kody was happy to enjoy the opportunity to shoot.

Warming up after another long day on the bike.

Warming up after another long day on the bike.

Kody plays with long exposures again, this time with our fire lighting up the trees. I was ready for bed, worn out after riding, starting a stubborn fire and eating the last of our dinner food.

Kody plays with long exposures again, this time with our fire lighting up the trees. I was ready for bed, worn out after riding, starting a stubborn fire and eating the last of our dinner food. Though I agree, you have to shoot that Milky Way!

We went a bit overboard on lunch yesterday and only had a pack of oatmeal and some dates/apricots to split today. We still had enough energy to enjoy the views and I couldn't help but pull off and sketch again.

DAY 3: We went a bit overboard on lunch yesterday and only had a pack of oatmeal and some dates/apricots to split today. We still had enough energy to enjoy the views and I couldn’t help but pull off and sketch again.

We made it to Georgia Pass.

We made it to Georgia Pass. Not sure how far our ride was, but it felt far, so I’ll say it was. From Copper Mtn at RT 91 to Georgia Pass to downtown Breckenridge nearly all on the singletrack of the Colorado Trail. Tough trails and fun trails, I have added respect for Continental Divide riders.

Kody doing a victory lap before our final descent down to town and finally to breakfast. Once we hit town around 2PM we were so hungry we went out and bought two breakfasts each at the Blue Moose Diner in Breck.

Kody doing a victory lap before our final descent down to town and finally to breakfast. Once we hit town, around 2PM, we were so hungry we went out and bought two breakfasts and a pitcher of warm coffee each at the Blue Moose Diner.

One last sketch, I will post some images from my sketch book when I return in a few weeks from Colorado and New Mexico.

One last sketch, I will post some images from my sketch book when I return in a few weeks from Colorado and New Mexico.

Thanks to Kody for always having the camera ready, CHUMBA USA for the reliable bikes, Wanderlust Gear for the well designed bikepacking bags, and to Orange Seal for keeping us flat free all ride!

Photos courtesy of Kody Gibson and CHUMBA USA. 2014 Copyright.