I just got back from spending a few days in Ouray, Colorado. WOW! I tagged along to a workshop that Tom Bol and George Theodore were leading, and I had the opportunity to shoot in some amazing places, at an amazing time with a great group of people. Tom and George are such pros when it comes to putting on a workshop and making sure everyone shoots a lot, learns a lot and has fun while doing it.
Timing (and Luck) Is Everything
Whenever you head somewhere to photograph fall color you’re always taking a gamble since you can’t predict it 100%. I’ve been to Acadia National Park in Maine before (and arrived after the rainiest late summer/early fall they’ve had), and been greeted by mostly green trees. I’ve been back to the same place during the same week, years later, and missed the fall color altogether. So it’s definitely not an exact science. Luckily though, this trip was timed just about as perfect as you can get. The colors were blazing and we were treated to some of the nicest fall photography opportunities I’ve ever seen.
Thursday started out just about as good as you can get. The light on the Dallas Divide was perfect.
(make sure you click on the photos to see them larger)
As I mentioned, timing is everything when it comes to fall colors. Believe it or not, you could tell that by the end of the trip (just 4 days later), the color had totally changed and was already fading in some areas.
Shooting And Semi-Harsh Light
One of the great things about being so high up in the mountains was that it offers you some extended shooting opportunities. Even though the sun is at it’s best right at sunrise or right at sunset, it still looks great within a couple of hours of each. In fact, the crisp blue skies with the bright colored trees really helps create a different type of photo. Plus, in many places the sun is behind a mountain when it rises. So you really don’t even see light on some of these hills until an hour or so after it’s actually risen.
(click on the photo to see them larger)
Over the years my taste in photography has changed. While I still love a nice clear (well, some clouds are nice) sunrise/sunset, I find I’m drawn to the dramatic conditions more and more. We knew some stormy winter weather was going to move in late one afternoon when we went out shooting. As a result the clouds rolled in and set up the conditions for some amazing photos. It was stunning to watch as the sun peaked through the clouds to create these strips of light on the glowing Aspen trees.
It also set the stage for an incredible sunset. If you can imagine, we had just photographed the place you see right above. There we were driving back to town, thinking the sun would definitely have disappeared by this point and killed any chances for a sunset shoot. At the last minute we decided to give it a go and try to shoot at the Dallas Divide again. Well, we got really lucky. For about 5 minutes the clouds cooperated and cast some beautiful dramatic light on the San Juan mountains.
(click on the photo to see them larger)
Here Comes The Snow
The weather forecast called for some wintery weather to move in on Thursday night. So we went from warmer 60’s weather (heck, I think it was even 70 at one point) to below freezing almost instantly. It was that weather that gave us some killer dramatic photos the evening before, and opened up some entirely different shooting opportunities on Friday. The combination of the snow on the trees along with the contrast of the glowing yellow Aspens set the stage for some of my favorites from the trip.
Heading Out To Owl Creek Pass
On the last day we set out to a place called Owl Creek Pass. It’s a road through the mountains surrounded by trees and rock formations all along the way. We were worried the road would be impassable because of the weather but, yet again, we got lucky. It was a little muddy but that’s about it. What was really nice is that the shooting was different from what we’d seen up until that point. There were huge groves of colorful trees with light bouncing in all directions. The canopy was beautiful. It was perfect for wandering around and capturing some different and more intimate photos of the trees and color.
We finished off the evening photographing the mountains and rocks that lined the road we’d traveled during the day.
I’m One Happy Camper
All I can say is that I’m one happy dude after this trip. I’ve taken many photography trips before and I have to say this goes down as the one I got the most “keepers” from. Aside from one evening where the clouds were too thick to shoot, we had 3 solid days of near perfect shooting. The combination of timing the fall color just right, along with the sun, clouds, and snow made each day feel like we were in a totally different place.
If you ever get the chance to take a workshop from Tom or George you definitely should. These guys are absolute professionals in the workshop business and you’ll have a great time with them. And I have to give a big thanks to everyone in the workshop. While getting out there and making some wonderful photos is always great, I walk away from every group I’ve ever been with, with great memories, many laughs, and many new friends.
Thanks for stopping by today. Have a good one!