As a landscape photographer in Colorado there are so many subjects that capture your attention. Mountains, lakes, plains, canyons, you name a natural feature other than the ocean and Colorado probably has it. But during Autumn the attentions of all photographers are focused on the same thing, aspens. If you don't live in Colorado you might only know the name Aspen from the small "ski" town for the super wealthy. Well I'm here to show you what you've been missing and how these trees set the landscape on fire!
After a few years of living in Colorado and taking my time to scout locations to shoot this incredible phenomenon, I was finally ready to dedicate a trip specifically to shooting the aspens. My dad, who is a great photographer and the reason I am a photographer, signed on for the trip so he, I, and my wife packed into the car for a four day adventure full of early, cold mornings and late nights. Our plan was to head out from Boulder, stop in Carbondale, Crested Butte, Ouray, Ridgway, and Telluride before turning back and heading home. Part one of this blog post will cover day one which didn't start off perfectly but as you will see we were not disappointed in the end.
We woke up really early in Carbondale after about 4 hours of driving the night before. I had never actually shot there but I had been a couple of times so I had an idea of where I wanted to go. As we hit the road in the pitch black, we rumbled along not really knowing what sunrise would bring us. We got to the spot I had pinpointed on the map and waited as the sky slowly began to lighten. As the sun rose and it became light enough to see what was going on, we realized that the clouds were really thick and low. We wouldn't get a sunrise this morning but never-the-less we tried to make the most of it.
Two homes nestled in the trees below the clouds
We did not let a disappointing start dampen our spirits. Instead, we hit the road because I knew our next destination would not result in the same disappointment. Our next destination wasn't so much a single spot but 33 miles of one of the most spectacular drives in the state, County Road 12, a dirt road that connects CO-133 with the small town of Crested Butte. Fortunately for us, mother nature decided to distract us with some incredible scenery along the way which meant more than a handful of pull-offs.
Big Kline Creek cuts through Gunnison National Forest
My lovely wife enjoying the day
Mt. Daly hides behind the clouds
Once on CR-12 things got even better. As the day wore on, the clouds started to break a bit which resulted in these intense beams of light almost spotlighting the landscape. Driving was slow but for good reason.
East and West Beckwith Peaks
Our plans for after Crested Butte were somewhat thwarted by a late afternoon downpour. We had initially planned to go over Owl Creek pass but decided that it was raining too hard and risking it on those muddy roads just wasn't worth it. Instead we b-lined right for the town of Ouray where we would be sleeping that night. We checked into our hotel, rested up a bit and then headed out to one of the most iconic spots in Colorado, the Dallas Divide near Ridgway. When we arrived I would be lying if I said that we were the only ones there, but once you look at that scene you understand why this little pull-off on the side of the road is so popular.
Part of the Sneffels Range from the Dallas Divide
After the sun had set we packed back in the car, ate some dinner and then hit the sack. Tomorrow would be a busy day and we were getting up very early. But that is a story for another day.
Until next time,
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Cameras: Nikon D3, Nikon D700
Lenses: Nikkor 24-70 f2.8, Nikkor 70-200 f2.8
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