The alpine wildflower meadows here in the San Juans of Colorado make a beautiful photo subject. One would think it would be easy … right? Well that’s what I thought … until I got started. For the most-part my objective was to capture the flowers and scenery together since this union is what I find special. While I appreciate shallow depth of field images, with these I preferred that both the foreground flowers and background be sharp. Following are the lessons I learned and some choice images.
- Getting There: Above tree line, high in the mountain basins some wildflower meadows are accessible along high-clearance jeep roads while others only by hiking at high elevations. The average wildflower hike starts at 6 miles round-trip and more. That doesn’t sound like a lot until you experience walking uphill at an elevation gain of 2,000 feet (or more) at a high altitude. You need to factor in how long it will take to get there.
- The Light: In some locations there may be a delay before the sunrise comes up over the peaks. This lessens your time before the already bright mountain light becomes too bright. Late day and sunset may be better but if you’ve hiked 3 hours to get there, your return hike downhill (in the dark) might take almost as long. Jeeping to or camping at the location are ideal.
- Subject: Finding a prime flower patch along with an interesting mountain background can take a lot of looking and exploration … but that’s part of the fun!
- Conditions: It has been my experience that it is windy more often than not. My goal was to keep everything sharp from front to back, so instead of sacrificing f-stop I increased my ISO to quicken my exposure attempting to freeze the motion. (Upon review I tossed some images because the flowers were moving and blurry.) Finding the meadows near peak bloom can be hit or miss. Sudden rain and hail storms can also occur so you need to beware.
- Equipment: Unless you can drive to your location you will need to lighten your load (more so than hiking at sea level)! On one occasion I hiked more than 7 miles round trip with my large DSLR, tripod and drinking water. I ended up not even using the camera since the light and conditions weren’t favorable when we finally got there. On the next hike I left my tripod at home but wished I had it when I saw the moving water. Then on my last hike (rated difficult) to the most beautiful location of all I brought my big camera but forgot my battery in the charger at home … ugh … traveling light does mean bringing the essentials!
- Camera Settings: In addition to increasing my shutter speed to compensate for the flowers blowing about I found focus-stacking to be helpful. Since flowers are relatively small I found I needed to get quite close to make them stand out. My usual method estimating hyper-focal distance didn’t always work. Taking shots at close, middle and far focal lengths then blending them together seemed to be a solution.
Living here and having these wildflower opportunities available is certainly a blessing. As wildflower season fades I look forward to putting these lessons to use next year.
Special thanks to all who helped me experience these awe-inspiring locations!
Filed under: Colorado, Landscape Photography | 39 Comments
Tags: Colorado, columbine, landscape, meadows, mountains, Paintbrush, photography, San Juan Mountains, scenic, tips, wildflowers
My previous post was about the first location a friend was kind enough to share, Mystic Falls. Here is the second location … an usual grouping of curved aspen trees! Once again it was a little tight sharing a small space with seven other photographers but taking turns, it worked out all the same. We were lucky to have some puffy clouds that diffused the sunlight that was fast becoming a bit harsh. Straying and swaying from the norm I love the character of these curvy aspen trees and tried as many different compositions as I could. To protect this fragile environment from too many visitors the location is semi-secret. Not wanting to be the one to ‘ruin it’ my friend asked that we not divulge it on the internet. We get a lot of photographers here, and especially in the fall so I can certainly agree with that request. This is another place that will look different in other seasons.
Filed under: Colorado, Landscape Photography | 26 Comments
Tags: aspen, B&W, bent, black and white, color, curved, forest, landscape, photography, prints, trees
Last weekend a kind friend invited me on a photography outing to two locations not easily found. It was a fun time sharing the adventure with seven other photographers. I had seen photos and learned about the first location, Mystic Falls almost a year ago and had been wanting to photograph it since. The directions seemed sketchy and after seeing the trail for myself I was glad to have help in getting there. With eight of us wanting to take pictures there was not a lot of room to move around and we each took our turns trying to stay out of each others’ way from the limited vantage points. Nestled between steep canyon walls it is one of the prettiest waterfalls I’ve seen. I do hope to return in the fall when the water is lower and more angles are possible. Here are three favorites from my first (but not last) visit to this very beautiful and mystical place!
Filed under: Colorado, Landscape Photography | 35 Comments
Tags: Colorado, framed, landscape, long exposure, nature, photography, prints, scenery, stream, summer, waterfall
Wildflower season is upon us and here is my first post of the summer focusing on this lovely subject. These scenes include fences … often catching my attention they are an attractive and common visual element in the scenery here. Coupled with the wildflowers that offer that ‘something extra’, I felt it was a good time to capture their character. I especially enjoy fence styles that include natural and uneven branches as supports. The zigzag, stacked style is popular and a favorite subject among photographers. The wildflower meadows are a beautiful sight to see … stay tuned for more wildflower posts in the near future.
Filed under: Colorado, Landscape Photography | 28 Comments
Tags: Colorado, fences, landscape, mountains, nature, photography, San Juan Mountains, scenic, wildflowers
This post is a continuation of my previous post ‘A Tour Through Time’ since it also includes local spots I shared with my visiting friend. Of course different seasons offer very different opportunities. At the time of year pictured here, snow-capped mountains, fast moving streams and spring greens dominate. Now as the snow on the peaks melts away we are being graced by summer wildflowers calling to me to bring my camera out to play! I hope you enjoy my spring tour.
If you are interested in photographing Southwest Colorado or the Moab Utah area I’d be happy to be your guide. My fees are very reasonable. Feel free to contact me to begin the conversation.
Filed under: Colorado, Landscape Photography | 31 Comments
Tags: Black Canyon, Cascade Falls, Chimney Rock, Colorado, Cornet Falls, landscape, mountain, Mt. Sneffels, Ouray County, photography, Red Mountain, sunset, tour, waterfall
Since my last few posts have highlighted landscape photography I thought I would share a bit of visual history this time around. When a photographer friend came to visit earlier this month I took her on the ‘tour’. We visited many of my favorite local spots which included several old structures leftover from the wild west and mining days. Changing with the seasons, I enjoy going back to these places to attempt a new composition, look and feel. If you have been following my work you already know I love to include old houses, shacks, barns and other structures in my scenes. I hope you enjoy my selection here!
Filed under: Abandoned, Colorado | 30 Comments
Tags: abandoned, buildings, Colorado, historic, mining, Ouray, Ouray County, photography, San Juan Mountains, Wilson Peak, Yankee Girl
For some time now I have been keeping my eyes open for trees that are strategically positioned against the sky. Back east where I am from it was a difficult find since the landscape was fairly flat and often interrupted by other nearby subjects. Being able to see the tree’s structure appeals to me and when the sky adds interest I find it all the more pleasing. Here are a few examples that represent my on-going collection with this common theme.
Filed under: Landscape Photography | 28 Comments
Tags: Colorado, landscape, nature, photography, silhouettes, sky, sunset, trees