High & Wild!

One of my photo goals this summer was to expand my portfolio to include more wildflower landscapes. I have better experience with flowers close-up, using a 100mm macro lens. It was time to focus more intently on wildflowers in the beautiful Colorado landscape.

I’ve written a little about this subject before, explaining how challenging I find it. Most of the wildflowers are up high, in the mountain basins. This of course, requires getting there … by hiking steep trails at high elevations or jeeping on sketchy roads. I’ve tried setting out in the morning and hiking while carrying a tripod, camera and water. By the time I got to where I was going it was high noon and the light was too contrasty … not to mention how tired I felt! Monsoons accompanied by lightning often roll in on summer afternoons and to be safe it’s wise to head back down the mountain soon after you get there! This year jeeping was the way to go but there are still other challenges to deal with. Finding the right patch of blooms can be difficult … especially when trying to line them up with a background to make a nice composition, and without distractions. Once found I also need to be mindful of the ever-present wind, setting a shutter speed fast enough while still allowing plenty of depth in focus. For images with flowers very close I’ve used a tripod and focus-stacked … combining images with the focus on the foreground, middle and background, and then manually blending them using layers and masks in Photoshop.

The collection starts with a surprise wildflower field near Telluride at about 9,000 ft. Record snow this year created a display like never seen before. But the snow also delayed the wildflowers higher up as well as the opening of many jeep roads. I heard a rumor that this field was radioactive … an explanation for the bountiful bloom! With a lot of mining history in the area … who knows? (June 24)

Wildflowers are abundant along the highway near Telluride, Colorado.
‘Wildflower Hill’ © Denise Bush
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A wildflower hill poses beside an glowing orange ridge at the end of a beautiful day!
‘Wildflowers Beside Glowing Ridge’ © Denise Bush
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Mother Nature has provided us with a beautiful color combination including purples, reds and oranges, among the green grass and blue sky!
‘Mother Nature’s Colors’ © Denise Bush

Another 9,000 ft. surprise was a familiar lupine field that just exploded with blooms this year. Here the fence kept me from getting very close. I visited on a few different occasions but was happiest with the combination of clouds, flowers and mountains. (July 1-20)

A fence creates a boundry protecting a beautiful field of lupine.
‘Fenced Lupine’ © Denise Bush
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A rare white lupine cluster stands out in a filed of purple!
‘A Splash Of White’ © Denise Bush
A brilliant lupine field shows off its color under a cloudy sky.
‘Lupine Under Clouds’ © Denise Bush
A field of Lupine makes an early July sunset even more beautiful, in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado.
‘Lupine At Sundown’ © Denise Bush

A first for me was seeing Monument Plants in bloom. This grouping was near Silverton but they were just about everywhere throughout the area. They get as tall 8 feet and flower just once in their lifetime of 20 to 80 years before dying. Other names include; Elkweed, Deer Ears, Green Gentian and Showy Frasera.

The flower stalk of this plant with many names erupts from a very large basal rosette of leaves, reaching heights of up to 8 feet. It flowers just once in its lifetime of 20 to 80 years and then dies.
‘Blooming Monument Plant’ © Denise Bush

Now it’s up to the higher alpine basins … 11,300 to 12,600 … give or take! As I’ve mentioned, the roads can be sketchy and every year there are casualties. There are many jeep roads I will not attempt alone. Once there, the slopes are steep and rocky so making your way to a good vantage point is often a careful balancing act. Here I found King’s Crowns, Columbine, Bluebells, Larkspur, Elephant Heads … Pink, White & Orange Paintbrush … and more! (August 2-6)

King’s Crowns and other wildflowers are found along a summer slope in Ouray County Colorado.
‘King’s Crowns On High’ © Denise Bush
A high mountain road leads to a beautiful display of wildflowers.
‘Columbine Trail’ © Denise Bush
A close-up look at Columbine, shows more, dotting the green landscape.
‘Columbine Close-up’ © Denise Bush
A road, high is a mountain basin outside of Silverton Colorado, displays beautiful pink paintbrush and other wildflowers.
‘Wildflower Pass’ © Denise Bush
Some pink paintbrush blooms on the side of a mountain basin near Silverton, Colorado
‘Paintbrush & Friends’ © Denise Bush
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I continued to like cloudy or partially cloudy skies for these scenes. Full on sun was much too contrasty. There is something about the pretty, delicate flowers along with the brooding clouds that appeals to me. (August 11-29)

Some bluebells sit peacefully under cloudy skies beside a fast-moving mountain stream.
‘Bluebells Beside The River’ © Denise Bush
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Cloudy skies loom over a high mountain wildflower basin near Ouray, Colorado.
‘Wildflower Assortment Under Looming Clouds’ © Denise Bush
Some wildflowers decorate a ledge offering a good view of a waterfall below.
‘Waterfall Overlook’ © Denise Bush
Columbine grows among boulders, high up, in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado.
‘Columbine & Boulders’ © Denise Bush
Indian Paintbrush graces a gentle slope leading to a mountain lake, high in the mountains of Colorado
‘Indian Paintbrush View’ © Denise Bush
An old mining building high up in the mountains is surrounded by gold … gold flowers that is!
‘Mountain Gold’ © Denise Bush
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Paintbrush cheers up rocky terrain on a Colorado slope at first light.
‘Slopeside Beauties’ © Denise Bush
Columbine blooms on a rocky slope in the San Juan Mountains near Telluride, Colorado.
‘On The Wild Side’ © Denise Bush
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Pink Painbrush wildflowers create a beautiful nature scen high in the mountains of Colorado.
‘Peaks & Pink Paintbrush’ © Denise Bush

This is a longer than usual post. Now it’s time to take a short break and get ready for fall foliage in the landscape! I hope you enjoyed looking at these summer scenes!