Posted by: kerryl29 | December 19, 2017

Colorado Day 3: Crystal Lake and Coal Bank Pass

I decided to start Day 3 the same way I began Day 2:  sunrise at Crystal Lake.  There had been a lot of wind on a very cold morning at the lake on Day 2; this time, the air temperature was every bit as chilly–below 20 F at daybreak–but on this occasion there was almost no wind at all, so there were reflections to take advantage of.

Crystal Lake at Dawn, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Evidently the water in Crystal Lake was able to remain above freezing despite the air temperature because I saw no signs of ice.  (This was not true of the small ponds located in the meadow just north of Crystal Lake; both of these small bodies of water had iced over in part.)

Crystal Lake at Dawn, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Despite a total of lack of clouds for the second morning in a row, it was a nice change of pace to be able to see some reflections in the water.  The lack of wind provided the added advantage of making the photographic experience itself less miserable than it had been the day before when the wind chills had to be below 10 F.

Crystal Lake at Dawn, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Crystal Lake Reflections, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

As I had done the previous day, I made my way along the trail around Crystal Lake and into the meadows.  While the ground cover was coated with frost (again), the areas of the ponds that were free of ice were every bit as compelling as reflecting pools as the lake on this morning.  The image below is from the second pond, farther north of the lake.  Only a small part of this body of water–the far end–was iced over.

Red Mountain from Crystal Lake at Sunrise, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

The first pond (see below) was about half-covered in ice.  But, as you can see, a large enough area was ice free to work nicely as a reflecting pool for Red Mountain.  You can also see all the frost covering the tall grasses and rocks along the pond’s shore.

Red Mountain from Crystal Lake at Sunrise, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

As the sun began to penetrate the valley floor I returned to the second pond for a couple of parting shots.

Red Mountain from Crystal Lake at Sunrise, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Red Mountain from Crystal Lake Area, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

I made my way back to the area around the lake itself, much of which was still in open shade.  I concentrated on stands of aspen and spruce.

Aspens & Conifers, Crystal Lake Area, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Aspens & Conifers, Crystal Lake Area, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Aspens & Conifers, Crystal Lake Area, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

After spending about 2 1/2 hours in the frosty weather, I was ready to warm up in the car.  I drove back across Red Mountain Pass at mid-morning and spent the rest of the AM scouting the area along the South Mineral Creek Road, just a few miles south of Silverton.  I checked out the unpaved road all the way to the campground (about seven miles) and picked out several spots that I thought would be worth photographing in better light.  I also scouted a couple of waterfalls just past the campground that I thought would be worth shooting in even light.  My plan was to return to the area the following morning.

In the early afternoon, I decided to scout the region south of Molas Pass and that’s where I spent the rest of the day.  I drove through Coal Bank Pass and, ultimately, all the way to Durango, about an hour-plus  south of Silverton.  The light wasn’t very good, so it was just a scouting session, but it was mid-afternoon by the time I started back toward Silverton and I made the decision to spend the rest of the afternoon photographing this area in the improving light–and with the benefit of some cirrus clouds that had started to roll in.

My first stop was to photograph some horses I’d spotted in a field on the way in.

Horses, LaPlata County, Colorado

And then I stopped at another location–what appeared to be an abandoned ranch in the San Juan National Forest–that had caught my eye on the drive to Durango.  This area was now in open shade.

Ranch Site, San Juan County, Colorado

Aspens & Conifers, San Juan National Forest, Colorado

From this point on, I simply stopped at roadside pullouts that looked interesting as I continued the drive north, back in the direction of Silverton.

Icy Waterfall, San Juan National Forest, Colorado

Twilight Peak was a compelling, omnipresent feature for much of the rest of the drive back through Coal Bank Pass.

Twilight Peak, San Juan National Forest, Colorado

Twilight Peak, San Juan National Forest, Colorado

Twilight Peak, San Juan National Forest, Colorado

I also found plenty of interesting subject matter to leverage with the telephoto lens.

Aspens & Conifers, Coal Bank Pass, San Juan National Forest, Colorado

Aspens & Conifers, Coal Bank Pass, San Juan National Forest, Colorado

Aspens & Conifers, Coal Bank Pass, San Juan National Forest, Colorado

Eventually, I reached the area that included Old Lime Creek Road, where I had photographed on Day 2.  This time, however, I remained on the main highway and resumed checking out all of the various pull-out opportunities.

Twilight Peak, San Juan National Forest, Colorado

Aspens & Conifers, Coal Bank Pass, San Juan National Forest, Colorado

Twilight Peak, San Juan National Forest, Colorado

Aspens & Conifers, Coal Bank Pass, San Juan National Forest, Colorado

Aspens Forever, Coal Bank Pass, San Juan National Forest, Colorado

Aspens & Conifers, Coal Bank Pass, San Juan National Forest, Colorado

It was getting dark, but I decided to make one last stop–Andrews Lake, not far from the turnoff to Little Molas Lake, but on the other side of the highway.  I didn’t expect to find much here, but it turned out to be a good move to check the lake out because I was able to photograph a nice sunset in a pleasant setting.

Andrews Lake at Sunset, San Juan National Forest, Colorado

I didn’t have much time to scout the area as the sky was already lighting up when I arrived, but fortunately the scene pretty much suggested itself, compositionally.

Andrews Lake at Sunset, San Juan National Forest, Colorado

Sunset Sky, San Juan National Forest, Colorado

As the sky faded I finally called an end to the day and drove the final 25 minutes or so back to Silverton.  My plan was to photograph sunrise on Day 4 from along the South Fork of Mineral Creek at one of the locations I had scouted late morning on Day 3.  The advantage to this was that it would only take about 15 minutes to drive to this location from my base in Silverton…

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Responses

  1. This looks like a stellar day of shooting…reflections at both ends of the day, and all kinds of color, lines, and shapes in between.

    • Thanks.

      It was actually kind of noteworthy how much time during this day I wasn’t photographing. Basically, after the early morning shoot, I scarcely pulled out the camera again until mid-afternoon. (I did take a few shots while on South Mineral Creek Road but the light was so awful I didn’t bother processing any of that material.)

  2. This is unreal!!! I need to move…

    • Thanks!

      Southwest Colorado is rugged country, but breathtakingly beautiful.

      • You have amazing patience for getting all these pictures just right. I looked through your N. Cal posts too, and I can tell that pictures like these do in NO way just “sort of happen…”
        Besides, when I head out, the sun is just always blasting and making for very harsh light.

        • Well, thanks very much–both for taking the time to notice and passing along your thoughts.

          I do indeed spend a lot of time establishing and fine tuning each composition; it’s probably the procedural part of photography that I enjoy the most. And, yes, I generally avoid photographing in harsh light (though there are some exceptions).

          Finally, if you’re interested in the point where the aesthetic and the actionable meet, here’s a link to a fairly brief post I wrote last year that ostensibly attempts to create a bridge:

          https://lightscapesphotography.wordpress.com/2016/04/25/the-aesthetic-triad/

        • Alright! Thanks, appreciate it! I admire your patience in this – I’m so skittish, and all my pictures involve my horse, my dogs, or some sort of family combo, of equally skittish motifs 🙂 Truly enjoying the peace in your beautiful photos!

        • Thanks!

          And, FWIW, the kind of photographic subjects you’re dealing with aren’t particularly conducive to a patient approach, so it sounds as though you’re doing just fine.

  3. Beautiful yet again. Everytime I see your post, fill with vibrance landscape

    • Thanks very much!

  4. Marvelous shooting, as always. I was about to comment that my favorites were the two with a touch of alpine glow on Twilight Peak, but then I came to your Sunset Sky and that took my breath away. Looks like a pretty good trip so far as long as you didn’t freeze any fingers or toes!
    Happy Holidays!

    • Thanks, Gunta. And, Happy Holidays to you from all 20 of my digits. 🙂

  5. Hello! I know this area well since I live nearby in Ridgway. You did a wonderful job! I especially like the shots from Andrews Lake. I have been there but not when the light was right and have been wanting to go back. Where do you live?

    • Hi Denise. I had no idea you were based in SW Colorado. I spent several days stationed in Silverton, then decamped for the Kebler Pass area, then returned to the San Juans, basing myself in Ouray for about five days until I left the area. During the final phase, I spent the vast majority of my time in the areas between Ridgway and Telluride (Owl Creek Pass was the principal exception).

      If you haven’t already seen them, you might find the first couple of entries from this series of interest:

      https://lightscapesphotography.wordpress.com/2017/11/28/colorado-day-1-across-red-mountain-pass/
      https://lightscapesphotography.wordpress.com/2017/12/11/colorado-day-2-frosty-morning/

      I’m sure you’ll see plenty of familiar locations.

      To answer your question, I’m based in the Midwest; I split my time roughly evenly between the Chicago area and the Indianapolis area. I made the roughly 1400-mile drive to Silverton from Indianapolis in late September.

      • I have been working hard to build my Colorful Colorado Collection since moving here in the summer of 2015 … many have appeared in my blog posts since.

  6. Beautiful photos, Kerry!

    In your reply to Ellen, I sort of smiled when you said you hadn’t photographed for much of the day. Colorado has a way of doing that. I tell my friends when they come and have plans to explore, set aside the camera and take it all in – the scenery, the sights, etc. – it’ll all be there tomorrow for photos. Sure the light will be different, but you’ll likely see something that you didn’t see the day before. 🙂

    Merry Christmas and have a happy, happy new year.

    • Thanks, David.

      Good advice (re taking it all in). The only limitation, of course, is available time, i.e. the scenery may be there tomorrow but you may not be. 🙂 This is one of the reasons why I always schedule more time at a location than I think I’m going to “need.”

  7. […] very cold, clear morning, followed by a warmer, still mostly clear, afternoon.  Based on my exploration the preceding day, I decided to spend daybreak along the South Mineral Creek Road, just north of Silverton.  After […]

  8. […] the second cataract, which is on South Mineral Creek itself.  Accessing this second location, my earlier scouting sessions had shown, was considering more difficult than getting up close and personal with the first […]


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