I had a wonderful time teaching an In-the-Field nature photography course last month with enthusiastic students from The Fort Collins Digital Workshop. The course was held at Lory State Park west of Fort Collins. While the park is not known as a fall photography “hotspot” by some photographers, it has some amazing rock formations, brilliantly-colored cottonwood trees and bays where water from Horsetooth Reservoir provides crisp reflections. Opportunities abound for unique fall photos like closeups of leaves as well as examples of hikers, cyclists and horseback riders enjoying the outdoors. Other story-telling images of the resilience of nature are available due to the park’s brush with recent wildflowers. While I love photographing in places like Colorado’s Maroon Lake that are renown for their immeasurable, iconic beauty, I know when I go to places like Lory I won’t be locking tripod legs with dozens of other photographers and I’ll be getting images that are one-of-a-kind with every visit. Stop by the workshop sometime to see what other courses we’ll be offering soon!
In the spirit of last month’s post about fall foliage, I continued to think about creative ways to capture the season. I have taken a few images like this one with the unusual goal of not making an image that was realistic and sharp but instead was painterly and blurry in a different, artistic way. This image was created by manually dialing in an exposure with a long shutter speed (about half a second, I think) and making circular motions with the camera and lens while the photo was being taken. It takes some experimentation to get the effect you want, and you can move the camera in several directions for varying results, but this image succeeded in expressing the movement of trees we can all observe during a wind storm. That’s a type of natural event that is difficult to communicate in a fast, sharp landscape.
I’ve overheard many photographers wonder out loud: “why would you want to convert a color photo into black and white, especially a photo of fall foliage?” It’s an interesting question. Often in autumn we seek out the most vivid examples of trees possible, traveling across entire states and regions to find and photograph “peak color.” Occasionally, I’ve tried to break out of this mindset, instead wondering what are some of the other aspects of taking pictures in the fall I can take advantage of? One of the great things about changing fall leaves is that they create variegated shades as well as colors. For example, this photo taken near Silverjack Reservoir in the Cimarron Range provides an extremely pleasing range of gray tones that otherwise wouldn’t be available during other seasons of the year. In this photo, I saw the added bonus of textured rock walls and deep shadows that help accentuate the grove of aspen trees too. Masters like Ansel Adams knew these advantages well also and didn’t hesitate to photograph in black and white during the fall color bonanza.
I’m not naturally a morning person. Regardless of your predisposition, living and photographing nature in Colorado demands that you become one as I have learned to do. The sun shines its most extraordinary light in the morning on so many of our landscapes. From the peaks of the Front Range which reflect the warm light of the sun rising above the plains to the east, to the desert sandstone walls of the Western Slope that burn red with the day’s first beams, photographing in the magic first hour of light in the morning is a must. Being lucky enough to witness scenes like this one of the Coke Ovens in Colorado National Monument near Grand Junction makes it worthwhile to wake before dawn. As was the case while taking this photo, sometimes you might just get a scenic view to yourself. You can catch up on your sleep around noon when the light is much harsher anyway!
See this photo and many more like it in my book Classic Colorado. Copies are in stock and shipping today!
It’s rare that I get to photograph two of my favorite things at the same time: mountains and fireworks. One element exists in the natural world, the other in the man-made world. However, I noticed this private firework display while setting up to capture a time lapse video of the city of Loveland’s major display that was occurring about fifteen minutes later. There was still enough light to see the Mummy Range, miles away in Rocky Mountain National Park, far in the distance. I’m glad I took the camera off of my tripod at the right time to expose a shot of the fireworks going off in town to with such a spectacular backdrop. Sometimes adding a human element can even enhance a nature photo.