Late September, 2012 – We went to Ridgway, Colorado, for a landscape photography workshop, and the Colorado Rockies were bursting with fall foliage colors when we arrived.
Our group of 20 or so photography enthusiasts gathered at Ridgway Lodge the night before the big shoot to review our camera equipment and basic photography techniques. My, oh my, I have never seen so many top-of-the-line Nikon cameras in one room.
The next morning, before dawn, we all piled into four cars and set off for our first shooting locale. A scenic overlook along Route 62 heading to Telluride is a favorite among photographers, and we all lined up in front of a fence to get shots of the rising sun as it cast its pink and golden light across the colorful foothills leading to the San Juan mountains.
Our instructor, Nasim Mansurov, gave marching orders for how to set up our cameras for this shot. He wanted us to shoot in manual mode, something Mark understands but that I’d never done before. His instructions were spot on, and as the landscape before us came to life, the images on our cameras miraculously did too. How funny it was, though, to stand shoulder to shoulder with other photography buffs in the pre-dawn light, waiting for the magic to happen in front of us!!
As we progressed from one shooting location to the next, Nasim explained the importance of using “leading lines” in our photos to draw our viewers’ eyes into our pictures. “If you go to Rome or Egypt you’ll see that the ancient architects used leading lines everywhere,” he told us.
At a small pond along Dallas Creek Road, he explained that the pier could be used to create a leading line coming in from the lower left corner of the photo. Suddenly all the cameras pointed that way to try to get the shot he described.
We stopped again, trying this time to incorporate an old, crooked, wooden fence into our images. Nasim explained that the fence in the foreground would lead to the golden aspen in the mid-ground and then to the craggy mountains in the background. Neither Mark nor I were happy with our results, but an elk hunter who was watching all of us crazy photographers crawling all over the wooden fence got a chuckle out of the scene.
The hunter and I began chatting and he told me that at this time last year Jeb Bush’s son and Ralph Lauren’s daughter had gotten married on Lauren’s massive estate (he owns most of the stunning land in this area). What an event that must have been, with Secret Service protecting two former presidents, and helicopters bringing in celebrities from all over. Apparently all the national forest roads were blocked off for several days, annoying more than a few hunters and campers who were stuck on one side or the other! Isn’t it ancient wisdom that if you’re gonna throw a big noisy party you gotta invite all your neighbors??!!
When we came to an unusual canopy of aspen trees shrouding a section of Last Dollar Road, Nasim asked us all to hold back before we walked in among the trees so we wouldn’t get in each other’s photos. This made for a funny paparazzi crowd at the entrance to the aspen grove. Those aspens were getting celebrity treatment worthy of Ralph Lauren himself!!
After a few moments we all wandered into the stand of aspens and let our cameras loose. What a blast!
Mark and I were lucky enough to be passengers in Nasim’s station wagon for the entire workshop, so we were privy to some lively exchanges between him and the other very knowledgeable folks in the car about the merits of all kinds of gear and various photography techniques and tricks.
We heard about polarizing filters, graduated neutral density filters, and the quality of this lens versus that. We chatted about figuring out an image’s hyperfocal length and dividing an image’s composition into thirds. The discussions were fast and furious. For us, it was an intense immersion into a new, exciting world.
As we piled in and out of the car all day, camera bags got loaded on and off laps at every stop. And although each pocket of every camera bag was stuffed to the gills with the latest and greatest gear, Mark found one pocket that had been reserved for a special companion…
When the day began to wind down, we stopped for a sunset shot looking back across fields of hay bales towards the mountains. Unfortunately, the sky didn’t cooperate with magical colors, and many of us had worn out our shutter fingers by then and reached the point of saying, “No more!!” But Mark was still going strong, and he took one of my favorites shots for the whole day of a fence tucked snugly into a field of wildflowers.
Folks had flown in from all over the country, and some didn’t have to leave for another day or two, so an impromptu group gathered to take more photos the next day. But the weather was deteriorating rapidly, and the crisp blue skies gave way to clouds and rain. When we finally left the area, a heavy rain had fallen overnight, which blessed us with a sprinkling of snow on mountains.
Our drive from Telluride southwest to Dolores was among the most beautiful I have ever seen. The aspens were rich in color and heavy with moisture, and the skies seemed to be brooding about the coming winter.
The aspens filled in the valleys with a vivid tapestry of green and yellow, and when I caught Mark smiling beside the edge of the road at one point, it seemed like he was standing in front of a painting.
The views continued to inspire us as our buggy sashayed along the twisting mountain roads through the mountains. We stopped briefly at Lizard Head Pass and again in the tiny hamlet of Rico, shivering in the growing cold and sharing the exquisite views with all the other lookie-loos who’d gathered in the scenic pullouts alongside us, cameras and grins flashing.
Finally, and sadly, the postcard landscape eventually came to an end. We had been treated to a glorious stay in this gorgeous part of Colorado at the most colorful time of year. As we dropped south out of the mountains into more mundane scenery, the brilliant images we had left behind became a blur in our memories.
What a place. If you haven’t seen the fall colors in Colorado, it really deserves a spot on your lifetime bucket list!!! The magic happens sometime around the third week of September…
Of course, our next stop in New Mexico’s Bisti Badlands was pretty exotic too, and it capped off one of our best summers in our trailer!
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Related posts about Colorado’s spectacular fall color and where to see it:
- Brilliant Fall Foliage + Snow in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado 11/22/16
- Colorado’s San Juan Skyway – An RV Trip in Dazzling Fall Color! 11/18/16
- San Juan Mountains Colorado – And then it Snowed! 11/14/14
- RV Trip on Colorado’s Million Dollar Highway – Ouray to Silverton 11/02/14
- Ouray – Finding the COLOR in Colorado on an RV Trip! 10/26/14
- Ridgway, CO – Peak fall foliage on the Dallas Divide – WOW!! 10/19/12
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