Archive for the ‘fall color’ Tag

Two for Tuesday: Autumn’s Brief Glory   7 comments

Quaking aspen, Wasatch Mountains, Utah.

Quaking aspen, Wasatch Mountains, Utah.

This fall, it’s sad to say, has for me been unlike most years.  I’m not in a place that has real seasons, and so am missing the show that deciduous trees put on at this time of year throughout the northern hemisphere’s temperate latitudes.  But don’t feel sorry.  Over the past few years I’ve been able to take a lot of time, mostly in the Rocky Mountain states, photographing fall colors.

Autumn in the Rockies is all about the quaking aspen.  Starting in early September in the north and going to first of November in New Mexico, aspens spend all too brief a time showing off the dazzling golden hues they are famous for.  Since I love transitions, I like shooting aspens as their color is just coming on, when a lot of subtle greens and other hues compete with the yellows.  I like going late too, when they are starting to lose their leaves.  It’s when the trees’ graceful silvery trunks show through, and when an early winter storm is more likely to mantle them with new-fallen snow.

This pair of images, though from two different places, purposely show only the trees, with no mountains, cabins or other elements to distract your eye.  I even avoided colorful sky and dramatic light.  The first picture, at top, was captured in early October near the peak of color.  The second image below was actually captured a few days earlier than the first but on a different year and at a higher elevation near Aspen, Colorado.  These trees were desperately holding on to their last leaves, exposing their elegant white trunks.  A beautiful forest of blue spruce is in the background.

I hope you’ve been able to get out and enjoy some crisp and colorful fall days this year.  If not and you’re in the right place, don’t waste anymore time.  Winter is coming!  Thanks for visiting.

Nearly bare quaking aspen: Maroon Valley, Colorado.

Nearly bare quaking aspen: Maroon Valley, Colorado.

Posted October 11, 2016 by MJF Images in trees

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Single-image Sunday: Fog and Fall Color   4 comments

Cottonwoods dressed for autumn peek out of a fog bank along the upper Colorado River in northern Colorado.

Cottonwoods dressed for autumn peek out of a fog bank along the upper Colorado River in northern Colorado.

Photographing fall color is never quite as easy as it seems.  It’s so easy to get excited about the vibrant trees, especially when they first turn.   I often find myself pointing the camera wherever the trees are, forgetting about finding interesting compositions and light.  And I know I’m not alone in that.  But after a bit of the enthusiasm wears off, it’s easier to settle down and shoot properly.

This morning in north-central Colorado was pretty dull.  The light at sunrise was not cutting it, and then the sun rose bright and harsh.  Although elevations are high in this area south of Steamboat Springs, there are no sharp rugged peaks.  But the area is spectacular in its own way.  The Colorado River, still fairly modest in size this close to the headwaters, winds through farmland and then plunges into Gore Canyon.

Gore Canyon was one of the major obstacles to a trans-continental railroad.  An early Denver railroad magnate named David Moffat dreamed of building tracks through and over the Rocky Mountains to tap the mining and cattle trade.  But it took a crew of death-defying men, called Argo’s Squirrels (J.J. Argo was crew leader) to complete it.

To survey the route through Gore Canyon, considered unnavigable at the time, the Squirrels came up with a plan.  Some of the crew floated logs down the river while others lowered themselves by rope down the vertical granite walls to river level.  Once there, they drove steel pegs into the rock, then caught and attached the logs to the pegs by rope, forming a precarious scaffolding.

This way the crew had a walkway, just above the raging whitewater, from which to survey the route.  Old pictures show the Squirrels seemingly at ease on the spindly logs a few feet from certain death by drowning.  They wore no life jackets, but amazingly no lives were lost.  It’s also interesting that most of the men were immigrants.

Nowadays Gore Canyon is famous among rafters and kayakers for being one of the roughest sections of whitewater in the country.  Gore Rapid is a solid Class V.  You can do a commercially-guided raft trip through the canyon, but you better be ready.  It’s considered by many to be the wildest whitewater accessible by guided trip in the U.S.  A much calmer way to see the roadless and remote canyon is to take the California Zephyr, a scenic train trip over the Rockies and on to the west coast.

Back to the picture:  I had stopped to make coffee, at a place that overlooks the river valley just upstream from Gore Canyon.  The sun was busy burning off a bank of ground fog that had collected overnight along the river.  Cold fall mornings that give way to warm sunny afternoons are perfect for this kind of fog.  I could see cottonwoods along the river, in full color, just peeking out of the fog bank.  I was some distance from the river, so I got my long lens out and zoomed in on groups of the golden trees as they emerged from the fog.

I hope you enjoyed this little glimpse of a remote but interesting corner of Colorado.  Have a great week!

Two for Tuesday: A Close Call   31 comments

Maroon Bells, near Aspen, Colorado.

Maroon Bells, near Aspen, Colorado.

Normally my Two for Tuesday series is about someone (or something) other than myself.  This time I’ll share a personal story, something scary that happened to me recently.

I’ve been traveling in Colorado, and made a swing through the Aspen area for the quaking aspen in fall color.  I wasn’t really planning to go to the ever-popular Maroon Bells, but found myself  driving up there as sunset approached.  I knew there was no way I would be shooting the “Bells” from Maroon Lake.  There are already about a million too-many shots of this on the internet and on walls everywhere.

Instead, I hiked past the throngs milling around the lake and on up-valley.  The lake is only a few minutes’ walk from the parking lot, and is admittedly quite scenic.  If you visit this area for the first time, go ahead and shoot from there.  I did on my first visit.  I’m really not trying to be smug.  But if you’re a serious photographer, I think you’ll want to get your own take on the place and avoid the tired composition that has been shot to death.

I climbed up an avalanche chute, bushwacking through the colorful but infuriating undergrowth.  I was sure I’d miss sunset, or rather the colorful skies as the sun set behind the mountains.  The trees and brush were in my way and it was getting steeper.  But I found a rock outcrop and, breathing hard, scrambled up.  I crept out to the edge and got a great view with aspens in the foreground (image at top).  I switched lenses from my Zeiss 21 mm. to the 50 mm. lens.  This was a crucial decision.

Next day I drove to another part of Colorado.  A couple evenings later I was shooting sunset and noticed an empty spot in my camera pack.  My Zeiss 21 mm. lens was gone!  This is a fairly new lens, currently the most expensive one I own.  So I was devastated.

On the computer I reviewed the metadata for all my recent images.  Although I had stopped and shot at a bunch of different spots to shoot, the last time I had used the Zeiss was shooting at the Maroon Bells.  Hooray for metadata!  Next morning I started the journey back across central Colorado, checking every place I had stopped, just in case the lens had somehow dropped out.  In the back of my mind I suspected it was at either at that rock outcrop or it was gone for good.

By late afternoon I was back hiking past all the photographers at Maroon Lake.  I had trouble finding the spot again.  It was just a random spot on the mountainside, away from any trail.  But toward sunset I recognized a tree and then the rock outcrop.  I was nervous; this was my last chance.  But I finally allowed myself to look down at where I’d been shooting.  And there it was!  It sat happily in the aspen leaves a foot or so from the edge of the cliff.

My shouts of joy echoed off the Maroon Bells.  I thanked the gods that I wasn’t the type of person who shoots from all the usual spots.  Needless to say, had I been at the lake that night, the lens would be long gone.  But nobody would likely ever shoot from that rock outcrop.  So except for the odd bear finding it and using it as a chew toy, I knew if I’d left it, it would still be there.  The sun was setting.  So to celebrate, I turned around and shot back toward the lake, where you can’t see but 50 or so tripods were lined up along the shore.

Maroon Lake sits in its aspen-lined valley, Colorado.

Maroon Lake sits in its aspen-lined valley, Colorado.

It’s a special kind of happy to find a lost $1600 lens on a mountain.  But I was also dismayed at my forgetful nature, which I’ve lived with since I was a kid.  Oh well, at this point in life you either accept all your failings or you drive yourself nuts.

Thanks for checking out the story and photos.  Have a wonderful week!

Wordless Wednesday: The Ozarks   13 comments

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