5D Mark III, Alta Lakes, Aspen Trees, Blue Columbine, Bridal Veil Falls, Canon, Columbia Sportswear, Crested Butte, F-Stop Gear, Gitzo Tripods, Gold King Basin, Gore-Tex, GT3541LS, Indian Paintbrush, Kebler Pass, LEE Filters, Matterhorn Campground, Ohio Pass, Old Man of the Mountains, Ophir, Pretty Jacob's Ladder, ReallyRightStuff, RRS BH-55-LR, San Juan Mountains, Scarlet Gilia, Telluride, Vasque, Vasque Footwear, Wildflowers
Being a native Coloradoan, I know nothing is exact. Not the weather, not the seasons, not the blooming of the wildflowers, nor anything along those lines! As a result, I took a wild guess in early April and booked a campsite at Matterhorn Campground for the weekend after Independence Day weekend.
Over Independence Day weekend, I did a couple of hikes at locations along the front-range to shoot a few specific subjects, but also to use as a gauge of the wildflower activity. Colors and variety were pretty strong, so I felt confident that I would have a reasonable amount of wildflower scenes to use for creating images.
Once I was able to depart from the Metro Denver area on Friday, I made my way to the campground and got my tent set up, then cooked myself some dinner and relaxed until it was time to hit the sack.
The next morning, after allowing myself to sleep in a little (7:30am), I got up, got cleaned up, made myself some breakfast and reviewed my shot list to make sure I had the first five or six items in near-term memory.
As I made my way to Ophir Road and out through the Ophir settlement (I cannot justify calling Ophir), I saw a few spots along the way that really struck me, but I wanted to drive as far East as I could before the Ophir Pass Rd. got to be more than I felt like tackling. After getting to that point and turning around, I rolled back to the nearest spot that had caught my eye, parked and started getting my camera & tripod ready.
Rainfall from overnight and morning dew was still quite heavy on the vegetation, so I put my gators on and grabbed a towel I keep handy and headed across the meadow a bit, being careful to walk where I could avoid stepping on wildflowers. Once I found the spot, I looked over the spot and was fortunate that the area behind where I wanted to shoot was void of anything other than just dirt and some wet prairie grass.
Setting my towel down, I configured my tripod so that I was fairly low and worked out the composition, then clicked the shutter. Reviewing my creation, I was very pleased with the results. One in the bag!
Since I had a good starting shot, I decided to play around with the HDR feature on my Canon 5D Mark III, since the 5DIII was still fairly new (had my 5D Mark II in my backpack with the Canon 16-35 f/2.8L II attached, should I need or desire ultra-wide capacity. The output of my 1st HDR attempt was okay, but I am certain that I would need to practice more to get high quality HDR shots if so desired (and I am not a big HDR fan, though I see a use for them here and there).
After trekking around a little more, I decided it was time to head to my next shot location, up around Alta Lakes & Gold King Basin. Alta Lakes Road is dirt and 4WD is recommended, though not 100% required except in a few areas up beyond the old mine just beyond Wild Boy Lake.
The mining relics were something I had on my shot-list as a possibility, if the structures and surrounding area provided the right scene. Luck was on my side and this one old building, once I walked around it and found the right spot to create an image from, was a fantastic subject!
Continuing on, it was not more than about ¼ mile before I stopped again, as a field of wildflowers with Sunshine Mountain and Wilson Peak in the background really caught my eye. There were so many options available that I literally had to stop myself, turn myself around in a circle to see what really was the best option. In the end, with the light being what it was, I felt this composition was the best.
I was near Alta Lakes at that point, so rather than head to the right towards Gold King Basin, I chose to press on the short distance to Alta Lakes and spend some time there, knowing I could always go to Gold King Basin on the way back down the hill.
Gearing up, I headed towards the lake to survey the situation and make a decision on which direction I wanted to go around the lake. Almost immediately, I saw a spot that could lend itself well to a long exposure lake shot, so I headed over to the spot, extended the legs of my tripod, putting two of them into the lake (which looked to be only 12 – 15” deep right there, but was really almost 36”) and getting the third leg configured for maximum stability. I attached the camera (carefully) into my ReallyRightStuff BH-55 ball-head and locked it in. Then, carefully positioned myself behind the camera, set the camera up for a normal exposure with no filters to get the f-stop and shutter speed settings, then attached my LEE Filter holder with my LEE Big Stopper and LEE 4”x4” Circular Polarizer filters and adjusted the shutter speed accordingly.
There was a very slight breeze, so the lake was almost placid, but with the two filters and long-exposure, the final result was, in my opinion…fantastic!
After shooting a few long-exposure shots to be sure I had a keeper, I carefully removed my camera & tripod from the position and moved inland a few meters, to ensure the gear remained dry as I disconnected from the tripod and put things back into the backpack to continue the trek around the lake (Alta Reservoir No. 3).
A few cool options along the way, but nothing that really dazzled my mind…until this:
The pink was so vibrant that I could not help but stop and compose! Continuing on, I came across an Indian Paintbrush near a big rock, so I took an opportunity to get close. As I did the light really lit up the paintbrush.
As I finished creating this image, I started feeling the need to get some food in me, so I trekked back to my truck and started making my way back down to CO Highway 145 and into Telluride. Forgetting that there was a massive concert event going on, I quickly realized once I got close to town, that I was probably going to have a heck of a time finding parking. As I drove through town, I was not fortunate to find parking until I was on the eastern edge of town.
Being there, I decided to skip lunch (for the time being) and hike up to the base of Bridal Veil Falls. Prior to heading out, I created a couple of images to show the perspective:
I started my Garmin Tactix GPS watch and once it had the satellites set, I headed on my merry way down the dirt road past an active mining operation up to the base of Bridal Veil Falls. I discovered afterwards that the grade is 73% from the mining operation up to the base and the distance was 2.21 miles from the truck to the base of the falls.
The overspray from the water falling, mixed in with the breeze, made for an interesting challenge to shoot without getting water all over the filters & lens. Once I had a lull in the breeze, I would pull the LEE filter holder with my 0.9 soft GND & circular polarizer filters on the lens and shoot a couple of shots.
I was about to pull out the Canon 5D Mark II with the 16-35 lens when the clouds I had noticed on the way up opened up for the usual afternoon rain shower. I quickly put my camera & filters away, pulled my Columbia Gore-Tex rain gear and put the rain covers over my camera packs (Clik-Elite Pro-Body Chest Pack and F-Stop Gear TilopaBC backpack) to begin the trek back to the truck (rain means lightening & thunder, which can be dangerous!!).
Along the way down, the rain finished and I decided to stop and remove the rain gear. After removing the rain gear, I noticed a small patch of wildflowers, the Colorado State Flower (Blue Columbine), so I broke out the camera & tripod for a few shots. Columbine sure is beautiful!
The rest of the trek back to the truck was uneventful. I was definitely hungry after a full day of trekking! On the way back to my camp, I stopped to have a sandwich made at a deli. Boy was it good!
The next morning, I was up early packed up camp and headed for Crested Butte. The Crested Butte Wildflower Festival was in full swing, so I skipped heading towards Cinnamon Mountain / Paradise Basin area and turned West on CR-12 up Kebler Pass. I knew the wildflowers would be pretty amazing up there, so I was not worried about “not” finding any wildflowers to shoot.
A few miles up the road, I came across this field of color, so I stopped in a pullout and spent some time here:
Getting my fill of wildflowers there, I got back in the truck and continued up Kebler Pass to the Ohio Pass (FR-730) turnoff. I turned down FR-730 and up over Ohio Pass, so that I could begin heading home, while stopping when needed along the way if something caught my eye.
Towards the bottom portion of Ohio Pass, before it opens up near Pass Creek valley, I saw a field of yellow and jammed on the brakes (nobody on the road in either direction, so I was safe to do so!). WOW was the scene spectacular!
As I finished creating this image, a bunch of color on my right hand side caught my eye, so I headed over there and was treated to some final bits of vibrant wildflowers to wrap up an absolutely spectacular trip!
So much to explore; finding time to do it all is a challenge (accepted challenge though!)