This is the spot to see what I've been getting into lately. Come back again soon and catch up!
Finally getting to my last post from Colorado. For those of you who were waiting for the pictures of cats that I promised a couple posts back, here they are. After this post I'm going to swing into full warm weather stuff, like flowers and rain forests, so come back for something seasonal.
By our last day in the mountains we were seeing some diminishing returns from our lift tickets. Between our beat legs, the lack of fresh powder, and an depleted supply of half price lift tickets, it seemed like a good time to try something else out for a day. So we drove down into the valley instead of up into the mountains and saddled up at a local horse ranch for a trail ride. It was a great change of pace and a totally different way to see the beautiful Arkansas River Valley and the 14ers of the Collegiate Peaks. Also, there were a bunch of kittens hanging out. It was an adorable day.
Taking a long trip by car can be disorienting enough, but when I come out of a series of airports and flights I feel totally placeless. Air travel has become like time consuming teleportation that involves a lot of bureaucracy. Quick fix. When you get to your destination, walk up a hill and look around.
That's what I chose to do with my first day in Colorado. I was antsy to hit the slopes but It was a very busy Saturday at Monarch and I wanted a little time to catch my breath at 10,000ft. So I took off to a nearby valley with Jackie and Nate, asked for a trail at a local sandwich shop, and hoofed it for a while.
I've never thought about it explicitly before but I've been doing something similar for years and it always jumpstarts my connection to somewhere new. Part of traveling is understanding and creating your own story of a place and it helps me to first find an "establishing shot."
Why would I choose to walk up the side of a snowy mountain, 12,000ft above sea level, in ski boots when there are perfectly good chairlifts? It pays to be different. In skiing, sometimes that means hiking.
Many big mountains have hike only back bowls and faces and if you've never loosened up those boot buckles and hoofed it up the last couple hundred vertical feet, you are missing out on one of the easiest, cheapest, and safest ways to experience backcountry skiing. Big open bowls above tree line, beautiful open glades, and super steeps can all be found on lift accessible terrain at most big mountains in Colorado. None can boast 3 feet of powder, days after a storm. Too many people have been there, skied that.
We had fantastic weather for our trip to Monarch. It dumped snow before we got there and continued as we arrived during the weekend. It was great to see the joy on the faces of locals who were there seeking the best snow in the state and getting it, but it was also a very busy weekend for the mountain. Despite the great snow, I took the extra crowded Saturday off in favor of a little exploration hike and soak in a hot spring (I'll put up a little post about it soon). By the end of the week, much of the powder was packed down pretty well on most of the mountain. But not in Mirkwood.
Mirkwood is over a ridge that no lift crosses. You have to walk over the ridge in order to get to that face of the mountain. 99% of people will never do it. But you should. As is so often true, a little extra effort at the right moment will payoff big. Not by getting you a little more of what everyone else has, but by getting you something entirely different, which they will never see.
This is the first in a series of posts on my recent trip to Colorado. Over the next couple of weeks there will be more skiing (details further down this post) and a surprise. All I will say about that is that it will be equally outdoorsy and beautiful... and there will be kittens. Let's get to it!
It's quickly becoming tradition. February is ski month and the routine is worked out. Fly into Denver, grab a car, and head through the passes, valleys and towns for Monarch Mountain. If you want to learn more about Monarch and why I fly out just to go there every year then check out my post from last year, Rocky Mountain Skiing for the Rest of Us, but also consider the fact that Monarch has some of the best tree skiing in the state.
This year I was again accompanied by close friend (and fellow photographer) Nate Ryan and my cousin Jens. New to the rotation was my partner in crime, Jackie, who gets major props for taking on learning to ski and being damn good at it. I spent some time showing her the ropes on the bunny slope but she didn't stay over there long. After a good first day of practice (without falling once) she was off exploring the big lifts. Just born a ski bunny I guess.
But I didn't spend all of my ski days on the greens. The fresh powder on the ground measured in feet. It was some of the best conditions i've seen in 20 years of skiing. Only Monarch was getting the snow. Other mountains a few miles away were coming up dry by that's the nature of weather when you've got huge mountains all around; things get very local. We made the most of it. Check back in a few days for a post that shows our best run of the trip, how we made it happen, and how you can too.
Chefs and photographers share something interesting. We do a commonplace task professionally. We offer a supercharged level of performance - extreme consistency and ability under pressure. Everyone cooks and everyone takes pictures but we offer something special. Most people can throw a baseball but not everyone can compete in the MLB.
When I show up to a restaurant to make images of food it is like a playoff game for the chef. It is a very special sort of attention that a plate of food gets when the chef and I know that a picture of that plate will be seen by thousands of people. I'm going to just do a little recap of some favorite places I've been recently. All are seriously delicious and worth a little effort to get to if you aren't living around the corner.
I have a long relationship with the restauranteurs behind the inventive and whimsical restaurant Mr. Rain's Funhouse at the American Visionary Art Museum. It's over in the beautiful Federal Hill neighborhood of Baltimore and they have a third floor roof deck for your summer enjoyment. Fabulous food. Award winning beverage program. When I'm in town, I'm there. Don't miss it.
This past week I found a couple of places in Waldorf, MD, that I will be back to soon. Both are in strip malls and have bad websites and delicious, simple food. I got assigned to shoot these places for an article in the Post Express. Kodori is a Japanese/Korean restaurant the size of a small apartment. They churned out some fantastic sushi and bibimbap and everyone there felt like part of the family that runs the place, even though many weren't. This is a place I would eat at every week if I lived close enough. Nine bucks for a gal-bi bibimbap bowl and it's a feast that comes with soup, salad and tons of bahnchahn including a couple types of kimchee. This is the best kind of eating. Look at it, then go find it.
The other spot was a revelation in ribs. Lefty's BBQ. Cooked twice, the first is a secret, the second is on a wood fired grill inside the restaurant. I ate them for dinner two nights in a row and was sad on the third night when I ran out. That good.
Last but not least is a shoot I did for Scoutmob with Kushi on K St. here in DC. First of all, if you don't know what Scoutmob is then you are missing out big time. Long and short of it is that it is the best way to find new local spots to eat if you live in the city and you get 50% off when you go to one of those spots for the first time! I started working with them after using their app so much that their DC team noticed me and invited me to happy hour. Turned out they needed a photographer and I was one. Perfect.
Back to Kushi. This place has it going on and they are launching a brunch with local music acts and special cocktails. They turned to Scoutmob to get the for out about their new morning/afternoon deliciousness and Scoutmob turned to me for the pictures. Tastes as rad as it looks or your money back. Scoutmob is running a deal for brunch for two with drinks for $35 including everything you see here.