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

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

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!

68 Responses to “High & Wild!”

  1. Wow. Every one of these pictures is great. The whole collection is wonderful. I love these pictures!

  2. Denise, These images are truly remarkable. All of your efforts paid off hansomely in creating this cacophony of wild flowers, mountains, trees and trails. Your compositions are brilliantly done. Did I state that I liked this post?

  3. Wow, these are so beautiful. I think your efforts going up and find these scenes paid off so well. Having colorful flowers as part of landscape make them lively and cheerful.

  4. All of these are so beautiful. How about saddling up a few mules with camping equipment and stay out a few days!!!! We could be there for early light ( : Looks like you did a wonderful job without a 4 legged ride. Just still high from my Montana adventure. Although the flowers that you captured are really outstanding.

    • Thanks Buck. Well I’m allergic to horses so I’m pretty sure I’d be allergic to mules too! 🙂 Once in a while we do see people while hiking or jeeping with pack horses, mules and alpacas. We have a used jeep now and can get up high and even camp there if we want. These are up in areas like Yankee Boy Basin (where we took you) and higher.

  5. Gorgeous shots, Denise. Do you know what the pink flowers are in the first pic?

    • Hi Bruce. Do you think those could be phlox? I don’t know what any of these are so let me know if you do! It was kind of strange because they were only blooming on this one hill. Everyone was pulling over to photograph among the flowers. Perhaps a reaction to our record snows … or radioactive!!!

  6. 11 Vickie R Bush

    Denise, absolutely stunning!! Wow so much more color then I absorbed having been in some of the locations with you. Wonderful job! These are definetly on my list for my livingroom!

  7. 13 Kathleen Lapergola

    So beautiful Denise. Each one is spectacular!!!!!

  8. Beautiful, Denise! My favorite is Kings Crown on High.

    • 😯 Like we were talking about … you never know what people are going to like! I wasn’t sure if I wanted to include that one but if you like it I’m glad I did. That was the only one from the day Brent and I tried to get into Governor’s Basin.

  9. You’ve done yourself proud with these landscapes of wildflowers. I didn’t know there were so many of them in Colorado in the summer.

    • Thanks Steve. Oh yes … lots of wildflowers in Colorado! Created Butte (not too far from here) has a wildflower festival every year, the first week of July. The flowers were a bit late this year in many areas due to record snow.

  10. Great images, love the Lupins. I would have been suffering altitude sickness at those heights.

    • Thanks for looking! Many people who come here suffer from elevation sickness. I get out of breath easier at those higher elevations. The lupine do grow a bit lower and even in my street.

  11. Stunning captures, Denise, thoroughly enjoyed!!! ❤

  12. Ms Bush….I always admire image makers that not only set goals, but then go out and actively pursue them. I agree macro is a fun world and a somewhat easy place to escape and become a bit on the lazy side of being a true maker of images. As Ansel Adams said, “You don’t take photos, you make them.”
    You have made yourself a nice body of work….As always, keep it up…..jw

    • Thanks so much for the nice comment! It was a good challenge and learning experience. The images help round out my Colorado landscape portfolio and now I’ll have a couple for summer months in next calendar.

  13. Lovely images. All are beautiful. (Suzanne)

    • Thanks very much Suzanne! 🙂

      • Excusez moi but we have a co-member with Denise and me in our South Jersey Camera Club (yes, Denise escaped to Colorado) named Susan Lapierre (a retired French teacher) and also a distinguished photographer. I was momentarily confused, something that happens more frequently. a Bientot.

  14. Absolutely beautiful images. One of your best blogs ever. I wish I could have joined you.

  15. Simply stunning images Denise! Beautiful.

  16. All beautiful, Denise.

  17. Fascinating as always, these pictures.

  18. 36 Deb

    These are ALL spectacular! I’d say you handled the issues beautifully! I love the pop of color in already beautiful background!

  19. As always Denise, I am blown away and enthralled by your captures. Life through your lens sure is spectacular! I truly appreciated the longer post and had to pick my jaw off my desk several times. Fantastic!!

  20. Those alpine mountain flowers are extraordinary. They sparkle mother nature with light and colour. Captured spectacularly in these images.

  21. GORGEOUS photos, Denise! I love them all. 🙂
    I hope one day to see similar scenes in person, but I doubt I’ll be climbing mountains to do so. Those days are over for me. 😉

  22. Beautiful series and interesting to read how you used stacked focus.

  23. Wonderful collection of photos. I especially like “Mountain Gold” and “Bluebells Beside The River.” Nice work!

    • Thank you! While there are not many flowers in ‘Bluebells Beside The River’ it is one of my favorites too … so I appreciate the endorsement!

  24. Oh my gosh, you found so many beautiful flowers and compositions! My favorite is the one with the dark clouds by the creek, and Indian Paintbrush view.

  25. Great work as usual, and an interesting accompanying write-up. Two favorites: A Splash of White and the Bluebells beside the River (not as much color but the creamy water enhances it.) Overall, maybe too many pieces of candy. You spoil us.

    • Thanks Ralph! Yes … as mentioned in my last graph … longer than usual. My goal was to put them all in one post so I could see what I accomplished and then be done with it! There were some that didn’t make the cut. I’ll be able to look back next year and make new goals.

  26. Stunning captures….absolutely stunning!! I so understand all of the issues you covered getting to these fields. Took me back to all of the jeep trails we use to take into the higher elevations. The monsoon challenge is so true with the lightning strikes, especially at the higher elevations. All of the challenges well worth it with your results….again…stunning captures!!

  27. Very beautiful.

    Wildflower fields are pretty magical to me. Thanks for this extensive look at them.

    Neil Scheinin

    • Oh, I missed your comment on this September post Neil. Thanks so much for visiting and taking the time to leave a comment. I’m glad you like these images!

  28. Lovely. Access may be difficult, but you’re spoiled for choice.

  29. Wow, so many flowers! It’s a feast! The Frasera was new to me – I enjoyed reading about and seeing your photos. You certainly conveyed the challenges of doing this work – very interesting – completely different from how I might photograph wildflowers or a blogger I know in Massachusetts might. The fields at the top of the post are amazing, and the columbines are just perfection. I like the Bluebells with the river and that very moody sky. They’re al wonderful – and a pink paintbrush! We have red and sometimes yellow or orange here, but this pink one is prettier. 😉

    • Hi Lynn! Thank you! Yes, the idea here was to create landscapes with wildflowers, instead of wildflower portraits, which I have done in the past. My goal was to provide a sense of place combining the flowers and mountain scenery. Glad you like the river scene … it is one of my favorites.

  30. Alpine wildflowers are such a treat and your Colorado ones almost have touches of Switzerland in them. I especially love your take on the lupine field.

  31. Such a paradise, and such chronicle of your effort! with the light lasting just a heartbeat I imagine how much preparation you needed. Thank you for so much beauty.

  32. Beautiful landscapes. Some of those flowers almost seemed iridescent. But I’m partial to the red ones too.

  33. Beautiful images. Thank you for sharing.

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