Art and Goings On

I’ve been meaning to update my blog with some recent goings on, but it’s tough to make the time. But now I looked and was shocked to see that it has been since August that I last posted. So, now it is time for a recap. First, my journey continues with work from the RMNP residency this summer. I’m done sending most of the rewards, but now I’m working away at the two most labor intensive: the ebook and photo book. The exciting thing is that it is a blast working with the images and they’re turning out really well. I can’t wait to see them completed and in print!

Next, a couple of weeks ago I began another teaching residency through the Rutgers-Camden Center for the Arts. I’m in a different school than before, working with different 3rd grade students and teachers, so there is a bit of a learning curve, but I’m very excited about the project we’re working on for the full 9 weeks. We’re doing a foam plate, 3 color, reduction print of each of their self-portraits. Once their done they’ll be scanned in and turned into a huge banner that the school will use. The whole project generally relates to the Big Read project book, “Goin’ Someplace Special”. Anyway, I’ve been enjoying myself and the kids always keep things lively. Below are just a handful of the 90 or so student portraits that they are making their plates from.

And last, just a bit of good news I got last night. I submitted my work to the NJ Educators juried show at the Markeim in Haddonfield. I was awarded second place, which is great, and I also sold one piece, twice! (That is, one person bought it and another asked if I could make a second print) That’s a win in my book.

And looking forward, I’ve got some interesting job stuff lining up for the future, but I don’t want to count any chickens just yet, so I’ll keep you waiting until further notice.


I’m currently in post-production with all my images from the residency. It is a huge task to sort and select, and then select again before deciding which images will go all the way through to a final edit and eventual print or selection for the book. It’s been 2 weeks since I’ve been home and I’m just now getting to the place of doing a final editing run on some of my images.

screenshot of images I'm ending in lightroom
Screen shot of 5 images I was working on tonight

Tonight I was specifically working on the images that I will turn into engineer prints and give to 4 of my kickstarter backers. I’m glad to finally be fine tuning adjustments (yay for masking!) and I can’t wait until I see the final prints. If you don’t know, an engineer print is basically a giant xerox, so you end up with a black and white image that has a low-fi look. My images will be printed 3ft x 4ft and I’m pretty sure they’ll look awesome.

Next I’ll be working on finalizing the images that I’ll be giving to backers as inkjet prints. I’ll also be making all those images available for sale on my website.

Thanks for staying tuned.

Final Days at Rocky Mountain National Park

A starry night looking over Long’s Peak

These last few days at Rocky Mountain National Park have been just as magical as the rest. After completing the Chasm Lake trail on tuesday, Melissa, Jed and I have been driving and hiking around the park, making sure we visited everywhere we wanted to.

On Wednesday we did a 4 lake hike, starting with Bear lake, then up to Nymph, Dream and Emerald. It was about a 3.5 mile hike round trip, which Jed did a mile of by himself (the rest we had a kid carrier for). Each lake was a little different and each had pretty spectacular views. That night I gave my second artist talk a the Beaver Meadows visitor center auditorium. 68 people came and I had a lot of fun talking about my work, what I’ve been doing in the park, and giving a demo of large format photography.

Dream Lake looking towards Hallett and Flattop

Emerald Lake looking up to Hallett

Thursday we all drove through various stops in Horseshoe Park (where the park was originally opened in 1915) and then up Trail Ridge Road again to the Tundra Communities trail, which I hiked while Jed and Melissa napped in the car. That trail gave some spectacular views and gave access to some unique ecology and rock formations on the tundra. The wind was whipping however, with a sustained “breeze” of about 25 mph with gusts of 40 at least. It was pretty similar to being up at chasm lake again except that the sun was shining, so it felt quite a bit warmer.

In Horseshoe Park at the edge of the Alluvial Fan area.

Mushroom stones on the Tundra Communities Trail
Near the top of the Tundra Communities Trail

And today, our last full day in the park, we wanted to get out and see something new, so we drove down to the southern end of the park to Wild Basin and did a short hike to the picturesque Copeland Falls. Jed did a little fishing, we had a snack and I took some photos. It was a great little day trip and a fitting finale to our adventure. And now, the drive back home.

Aspen Leaves

Ascent to Chasm Lake

I had just a couple hikes I knew I wanted to do even before I came to RMNP.  One of those was the Flattop and Hallett hike, which I somewhat accidentally turned into an over-exhausting excursion. And the other I was able to accomplish today: Chasm Lake. This lake starts on the same trail as the famed fourteener, Longs Peak. However, rather than continuing to the summit, Chasm Lake sits at the base of Longs Peak’s imposing east facing wall (2,400 ft tall) known as the “diamond”.

Longs Peak from the edge of Chasm lake at about 5:30am.That’s the moon if you’re wondering.

I knew I wanted to do the hike, but in order to get really good photos, one has to get there at the right time of day. This meant that I needed to be at the lake no later than 5:45am. So, I set my alarm for 2am, drove to the trailhead and was on the trail by 3, hiking in the dark with my headlamp on, with my photo gear on my back. I know that may sound slightly crazy, but for people summiting Longs Peak, they typically leave between 2 and 3, so I actually passed quite a few people on the trail, even at that time.

The hike went as expected until I reached the tundra. At that point the trees disappeared and a cold wind started whipping across the mountainside. I’m not talking about a breeze, I mean gusts of at least 50 mph. A lot of the people who were trying to summit Longs Peak turned back, knowing the higher they got the stronger and more dangerous it would get. But since I was going to be hiking to Chasm lake, which sits down between several peaks, I figured I’d be missing a good part of the wind. I was wrong. If anything the wind got stronger. It roared down the canyon as I hiked and when I got the the lake at about 5am, gusts threatened to knock me over. I had to be very careful to make sure all of my equipment was weighed down, or it would have been blown away in a minute. Not only was the wind voracious, the temperature dropped. My thermometer was reading 40 f, and that’s not including the windchill. But despite all that I was able to find a little nook that was somewhat out of the bigger gusts and worked on my photos until about 7am, at which point I packed up and headed back down.

Chasm Lake and Longs Peak’s east facing wall.

It was an exhilarating hike, made more so by the weather, but I’m glad I was able to conquer it and get some unique photos in the process. Almost as soon as I was done shooting, some clouds moved in and cover the peaks, so I was fortunate to get the shots I did.

Looking back towards Longs on my descent.

And finally, I just wanted to include a few photos of some of the other things I’ve been seeing. Just a few days left before heading home. Here’s to making the most of them.

Spending time in an Aspen grove

I found these paper wasps near one place I was shooting. Amazing.

This mule deer has a pretty nice set of antlers.He was just having out by the road the other evening.

Up Close and Personal with Wildlife and the Great Outdoors

I’m just about halfway through, which has been just long enough to realize that I’d need at least twice the amount of time I have in order to do everything I want to. The park is incredible, the weather has been amazing (actually, I’m hoping for a good storm or two to come over the mountains…. we’ll see), and even the wildlife has been cooperating. The rangers had all been saying that this time of year the elk would be up high on the tundra, so our best chance would be to head up trail ridge road towards the alpine visitor center. Wednesday afternoon we loaded into the car to do just that, when not a quarter mile from our cabin we spotted a few elk. So we stopped the car and a herd of around 50 elk came strolling by right next to us, and down into Moraine Park, which the cabin overlooks. We could hear all the young, still spotted, elk practicing their bugle and watched the herd as it grazed the meadow.

The first part of the herd, crossing into Moraine Park

Later that evening I did the first of two artist presentations in the Auditorium. It was lots of fun and there was a great turnout of about 70 people! The next day the forecast looked especially good so I decided to do one of the more strenuous hikes I wanted to, from Bear Lake to Flattop Mountain and then on to Hallett Peak, which would have been about an 8 mile round trip with an elevation gain of around 3,000 ft. The hike up flattop and Hallett went great, and after talking to some other hikers at the top I decided to try an alternate way down rather than backtracking. I ended up doing about half of The next mountain over, Otis peak, but decided that for the sake of time and my energy I should just move on to the descent, which was going to be the fun part. Rather than hiking down a trail, this alternate descent involved sliding down Andrews Glacier to Andrews Tarn (glacial lake), and then picking up the trail (which involved lots of boulder hopping) from the lake back down to the Glacial Gorge trailhead.  So what had started as an 8 mile round trip turned into about a 12 mile loop and by the end I was exhausted and on the edge of dehydration. So, this may have been a good lesson in the pitfalls of over exertion, but I’m no worse for wear a day later, and now I’m a little more carefully planning my next bigger hike.

The view from the summit of Hallett Peak, towards Longs Peak.

I was happy to spot a bunch of Colorado Columbine throughout the day

One of the marmots I spotted, posing majestically.
The view Northeast from Hallett, toward Moraine Park

Andrews Glacier

On Friday we decided to actually head up Trail Ridge Road to the Alpine Visitor’s Center (The highest continuously paved highway in the US and the highest National Park visitor’s center in the US). There were of course lots of beautiful vistas, and there were some clouds rolling through that added a little drama to the skies, so it was a good day for a relaxing drive and taking in the sights. Jed bought himself a pair of binoculars, which he enjoyed using immensely. At the Alpine Visitor’s Center we hiked up the short trail to the very top of the mountain (12,005 ft.). While we were up there the clouds came in a little heavier, the wind picked up and the the temperature dropped about 20 degrees in the matter of minutes. I was, of course, taking my time taking some photos, but eventually we all hiked down and found some rest from the wind and cold in the cafe, just in time for lunch.

Jed loves his binoculars

Clouds rolling in by the Alpine Visitor’s Center

We’re at the top (and we’re cold!) 
Cloudy skies

Then, on the way back down Trail Ridge Road to our cabin, we spotted a big horned sheep very near the road. We parked and I got out to take a few shots but suddenly he started walking towards me, not in a meandering “I think I’ll walk this way now” kind of way, but more in a “you better move or you’ll be on the loosing end of these horns” attitude. So, I quickly backpedaled, but still managed to get a few closeups for my trouble.

Big Horned Sheep, up close and personal.

 Finally, right by our cabin there are a lot of smallish animals that frequent the porch and keep us entertained in the mornings and evenings. There are ground squirrels, chipmunks, a martin that we’ve heard chewing on the cabin but not seen (the ranger said it’s a martin) and several hummingbirds. Hopefully I’ll be able to gather some good photos of these furry little friends over this next week, but hummingbirds are not easy to keep up with.

One of our neighborhood hummingbirds

Rocky Mountain National Park: First Full Day

The first evening in the William Allen White Cabin

The Artist in Residence program here at Rocky Mountain National Park is awesome. Everyone is so nice and helpful, it really feels like the VIP treatment. I walked into the main, bustling visitor’s center my first day, expecting to have to explain to a couple people who I was and what I was doing there, but instead they recognized me as I walked in and greeted me with an enthusiastic “Hi Ben, we’re so glad you’re here!”. That is a nice way to start, I’ll be honest.

The William Allen White cabin is incredible. It’s spacious and perfectly situated on Moraine Park for incredible panoramic views. I am soaking it all in. You know how special a place is when one of the best views around is from your own front porch.

My First Day:

I got up for an early start today, (5:30) hoping to get a feel for the sunrise (not quite so easy to figure out when there are so many mountains around) and explore a couple of the more popular locations before the crowds. I’m told there’s been some moose around there too, so I’ll probably be back several times to try and catch a sight of some.
Then later this morning Melissa and Jed and I were able to go for a good 3.5 mile hike up a canyon along a picturesque stream. Jed got to ride in the pack most of the way, but we’ll break in his hiking legs soon I think.
So, here are just a few photos to give you a quick glimpse into the incredible landscape and experience. I don’t think I’ll be able to post something everyday, but maybe every other. There are just so many things to see and do in the park, it’s hard to pull myself away and look at a computer screen.
Jed’s enjoying the great outdoors.

Part of the view from the porch.

Sunrise at Sprague Lake 
After sunrise at Sprague Lake


This is the view from the bench at the visitor’s center where I am writing this post…. not too shabby. There is also some kind of swift or swallow (I’m no birder) building a nest right next to me.

Beaver Meadows Visitor Center

The Journey Begins

Very early tomorrow morning I will be setting off for Colorado and the residency that awaits at Rocky Mountain National Park. I am so blessed to have the opportunity (and not just me, my wife and son are coming along as well) and now my mind is racing to figure out how to make the most of the time. I of course have some planned projects, ideas for images I’d like to make and some experiments I’d like to try, but at the same time I know I need to leave myself and my time open for a slow, measured response to whatever the park presents while I’m there. So rather than having projects as a goal, I am instead focusing on how I can settle in, and live as part of the park. I will not be busy or hurried. Rather, I will be observant and responsive.

I’m so excited to be starting this journey (even the 4 day drive). I plan to post as often as possible while in the park, to keep you up to date with my experience.

My 2 weeks begin on Sunday.

Fully Funded Kickstarter Project


Fully funded for a residency in colorado

My Kickstarter campaign is now 100% funded, and it’s all thanks to my generous backers. The time was starting to wind down, I was beginning to get a little nervous, but then several backers jumped in and propelled me across the finish line! This is so exciting and encouraging to have you all on board.

Kickstarter 100% funded
So, I’d like to thank my most recent backers for supporting me in my residency project.
Jim & Ann Panter
Kelly Budesa
Neysa Hardin
Tom Panter
Robbie Reynolds

Thank you all so much (and all my earlier backers too!), I couldn’t do this without you.

Also, remember that I’ll have very limited connection to the internet during the residency, but I’ll do my best to do several updates during my time there to keep you all up to speed on the latest. It’s coming up soon, I’m so excited to begin!

Kickstarter Thank You #1

It’s been 5 days and you’ve already brought me so far! 8 backers and 37% funded is such a fantastic start. It also feels great that this group is a mix of friends, family, backers from my last project, and people who just discovered the project. So, I’d like to thank them all right now, and keep in mind all my backers will be also be thanked in the ebook I produce (and distribute as a reward to all backers) and in the photo book that is a reward.

Thank You

Jane Panter
Peter Classetti
Jim Diericks
Sue Satterthwaite
Jason Galloway
Lisa Riefer
Ken Hohing

I really appreciate you all getting this project rolling and supporting me in this artistic venture. I couldn’t do it without you. If you know anyone else who you think might be interested in backing the project, please send them the link. Let’s spread this far and wide together!
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