Climbing the Wild West - Photos from Shelf Road

Shelf Road. Located in the southern half of Colorado’s Front Range, you’ll find it surrounded by dirt roads kicking up dust and some honest cactus! Also, it happens to be one of the best locations for rock climbing in the country (in the world?). Just outside Canon City, Colorado, it boasts over 1000 climbing routes on mostly quality limestone rock. Nearly all the walls are bright, south-facing walls that can be climbed even in the dead of winter. 

Getting to shelf road isn’t difficult, unless you miss the small road sign like we did our first time and continue onto the wrong dirt road, hugging a 100 foot drop off for 40 minutes before realizing you’re going the wrong way. Do not recommend. However, once you get there, the climbing area has ample parking and several campsites, making it a great overnight trip to do with friends. 

With a 10 minute walk, you get out to the walls and you realize just how much Shelf Road has to offer. I have been to Shelf (as the regulars call it) 3-4 times and each time we only complete a few climbs. It’s going to take a while to hit 1000. 

My buddy, Dustin.

It gets darn hot in the summer with the southern facing walls, so give it a try in early or late seasons, or possibly in the dead of winter. You might drive through a half foot of snow to get there, only to end up climbing in a t-shirt! Shelf Road is my favorite climbing area. I am thankful that they have plenty of easy routes for someone like me, as well as many difficult routes. It’s a great climbing experience and whether you are camping overnight or doing a day trip, Shelf isn’t going to disappoint!

Best of luck in your adventures! -Liam

Before & After: The Editing Process Behind a Portrait

This is a brief look into the post-processing of a typical head and shoulders portrait. The starting image here is nicely exposed and doesn’t have much in the way of obvious flaws. This makes the editing process fairly simple. We work almost exclusively in Adobe Lightroom for all our images and only use Photoshop for more extreme edits. The goal here will be to make her stand out from the background and to highlight her eyes and smile as the focal point of the photo. Below you can see the final product and the image that we started with.

The final product

The starting image

Now lets take a look at the step by step process. To share this with you I captured screenshots during the process. This ended up being rather clunky and doesn’t share the information very well, so next time I hope to do a video instead. For now, if you click the slideshow menu on the bottom right corner of the images, you should be able to see the notes on each image describing the step. 

The starting image: no adjustments yet

1st things 1st: Decide I want it black and white and apply a generic B&W preset

Now I feel the subject needs separation from the background. To achieve this, I start by burning (darkening) the background selectively with a brush.

Next I think the eyes are too shadowy and need some light. This is done by dodging (lighting) the areas with a brush. You can see how much brightening is applied by looking over at the “exposure” slider on the right side of the screen.

Now I want more ‘punch’ in the eyes. I apply a selective brush right over the pupils to do four things: increase contrast, brighten the whites, darken the blacks, and increase the localized contrast (clarity).

This is our progress so far!

Now I want to reduce the localized contrast over the skin and low detail areas of her face. This is achieved by using the ‘soften skin’ brush and reducing its effect.

I decided I want more overall brightness and contrast, so I apply a few adjustments to bring up those elements.

I felt I was losing her face in her hair, so I added more contrast and a little darkness to her hair with a brush.

After a few more brushed in contrast to her hair, I finish off the overall adjustments with a nice vignette around the edges to bring the focus into the middle

Just a quick local brush to bring some more brightness into her smile and a little more contrast into her lips

The final product

Voilà! The basic idea behind all this, as you perhaps already gathered, was to bring the brightness into her face and to darken those areas that are “less important”…the background, the clothing, etc. We, as viewers, want to look at bright areas of a picture and see sharp contrast. This is also why we lightened her eyes and added contrast to her pupils and lips. This makes her face pop. Below again is the final version of the picture. We started with a nice picture, but with a few adjustments we finish with a much more powerful portrait. 

Photo Shoot: The Radio Strike

It is good to be settled back into the inviting neighborhoods of Saint Paul. After two years in Colorado, Allison and I are back and the business is running at full steam! Because of a few close friends who dedicate their time to music, I have been doing more and more band group portraits. Most recently I photographed The Radio Strike. 

They are a classic rock cover group that broke onto the scene fairly recently. The photo shoot was somewhat last minute, all scheduled and shot within about three days. Things got more inventive when the original shoot location, a gritty blues bar near downtown, already had a band playing. One of the musicians had an idea in mind for an alternate spot, so we caravanned over and got photographing. Because of the dank indoor lighting, these were all taken with off camera lighting. Although things got a somewhat spotty start, eventually it pulled together and we got some good results!

Personal Work From Up North

I had the pleasure of taking a nice little vacation this week in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, a place that I love visiting and have done several times. The unique part of this trip was that I was alone while vacationing! I brought along my camera, several books, and a few movies. This gave me a chance to take my camera and enjoy exploring the wonderful peacefulness that abounds in such a place. I simply wanted to share with you some of the more interesting pictures from my time in the north woods. I hope you enjoy them! 


Tim & Kelly’s Engagement Session

The other weekend I had a really great engagement session and I really enjoyed photographing the couple! Tim and Kelly’s wedding is in just a few weeks, but they don’t live in the area, so since they were in town, we decided to sneak in an engagement session! 

When I brought up the idea of a last minute engagement session, both Tim and Kelly were enthusiastic! Immediately Tim suggested that we go out and photograph around the campus of St. John’s University, which I completely supported! St. John’s has long been one of my favorite places around the St. Cloud area to go for portrait sessions, because of many lovely trails, textures, and a cool bridge or two! 

We fit the session in on an early Sunday afternoon around 2:00 PM, which is certainly not my favorite time to photograph, but clearly it didn’t prevent an awesome session! The one place I was excited to shoot, an iron bridge crossing a lake behind St. Johns, was in full mid-day sun, however, so we ventured to other areas of campus. The backside of one of the brick buildings turned out especially lovely. It was covered in ivy and another building next to us was giving us the effect of a large reflector, basking Tim and Kelly in wonderfully soft light. 

After heading over to the main St. John’s lake and photographing at the trails there, we then proceeded to walk the woodland trails and searched out a lovely stone bridge tucked in the woods. Overall, it was a delightful session and everybody had a great time. I truly am looking forward to photographing Tim and Kelly’s wedding at the end of the month!  

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