Posted by: kerryl29 | February 19, 2018

Colorado Day 9: Transitions

This was to be the day that I relocated to Ouray, back in southwest Colorado, for the remainder of my trip, but that wouldn’t happen until I spent one final morning at Kebler Pass.  Having spent some time in the Lost Lake area of the pass on Day 8, I had decided to return there for sunrise, photographing (conditions permitting) daybreak at Lost Lake Slough, then making the two-mile round trip hike to Lost Lake itself, in the hope of finding more photogenic circumstances than I had encountered on the previous day.

So, I got up extra early, given that it would take at least an hour to drive to Lost Lake Slough from Gunnison.

During the previous day’s scout, I had decided exactly where I’d go for sunrise–the west side of Lost Lake Slough.  Many people prefer to photograph first light on the peaks to the southwest of the slough and, therefore, set up on the eastern shore, but while I liked the backdrop from that locale well enough I didn’t much care for the foreground.  The west end, however, includes a number of foreground options–reeds in the water, as well as rocks.  It’s a bit marshy on the west side, and perhaps that keeps many people away, but I had my trusty rubber boots (which I had used during the prior day’s scout to find just the right spot).

Headlamp in tow, I made my way to my desired location and waited.  There was a bit of breeze, which caused some rippling in the water, but it calmed down in time.  There was a fair amount of cloud cover to the east, so the sunrise wasn’t a breathtaking one, but it was nice enough.

Lost Lake Slough at Sunrise, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

I moved to the north end of the slough after the sun came up and turned my attention to the southwest.

Lost Lake Slough Morning, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

Lost Lake Slough Morning Black & White, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

Lost Lake Slough Morning, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

Then I made the hike up to Lost Lake.  Indeed, the conditions were far more favorable for photography than they had been the previous afternoon.  The lake was mostly free of ripples and the sun was making an occasional appearance early this morning.

Lost Lake, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

Lost Lake, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

I hiked back to the trailhead and made my way on the Three Lakes Trail along the west side of Lost Lake Slough, to a spot I’d found the previous day in the rain.  I thought this location made for an interesting intimate.

Lost Lake Slough Reflections, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

I went back to the car and, as I headed back down Lost Lake Road in the direction of the Kebler Pass Road, I stopped near a small meadow that I’d taken note of the previous day.  I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to make some images now that the conditions were better.

Aspen Meadow, Lost Lake Road, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

For the second of the images from this location, I set up very low to the ground, with the camera no more than a foot above ground level.  Windless conditions allowed me to fire off four focus stacked frames to obtain the desired depth of field.

Aspen Meadow, Lost Lake Road, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

The images that had first attracted me to this spot–as seen from the road–were all made with a telephoto lens.

Aspen Isolates, Lost Lake Road, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

Aspen Isolates Black & White, Lost Lake Road, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

The sky had just about completely clouded up before I reached this meadow, which was actually good news because there was one more spot at Kebler Pass that I’d hoped to explore and imagery there demanded soft light.  It was the location on the south side of the Kebler Pass Road, in the thick aspen forest where I’d photographed mid-afternoon of the previous day.  While I’d photographed the aspens on the north side of the road from the shoulder, the forest on the south side was above road level, on a fairly steep hillside.  These aspens beckoned me to join them and I obliged, wading into the forest.

I climbed the hill and, after several hundred feet, the terrain leveled out a bit.

Aspen Forest, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

I love places like this.  While it can be hard to tease out compelling images, due to all the “clutter,” I find these locales to be incredibly peaceful when no one else is around–which was the case on this occasion.

Aspen Forest, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

Aspen Forest, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

Aspen Forest, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

Aspen Forest, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

I wandered around in this aspen forest for about an hour by which time it was mid-morning.  It was now time to begin the ride to Ouray.  I got to the far western part of Kebler Pass–an area I’d passed through on the way to and from McClure Pass back on Day 6–but this time I stopped at an unofficial pullout across from an overlook that had a wonderful view of the valley below.  I ended up spending a good 45 minutes at this spot; there were so many interesting compositions.

Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

Conifer, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

The overlook covered a fairly large amount of ground–roughly 500 feet–which allowed me to move around quite a bit to pick out different perspectives.  I also used a wide variety of focal lengths, ranging from roughly 50 mm to more than 300 mm.

Conifers, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

West Overlook, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

As a result, this overlook–unlike so many–was no one trick pony.

Conifer, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

West Overlook, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

West Overlook, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

West Overlook, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

Conifer, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

Aspens & Conifers, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

The road winds down into the valley as it approaches CO-133.  Within a couple of miles of the junction with the state highway I was presented with a sidelong perspective of a mountainside covered with a tapestry of fall color produced by native scrub oak, contrasted by the occasional conifer.  I stopped one more time to take advantage of the opportunity.

Scrub Oak Mountainside, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

Scrub Oak Mountainside, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

I reached Ouray by mid-afternoon, by which time the sun had made another appearance.  After checking into my lodging I decided to explore the Owl Creek Pass area, the access for which is about 15 miles north of Ouray.  The road up to the pass is unpaved, but in pretty good shape for the first six or seven miles.

Owl Creek Pass Afternoon, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

After that, it deteriorates significantly.  It’s theoretically (and probably practically) accessible to passenger vehicles but as the road got rockier and rockier I started flashing back to several of of my not-so-enjoyable experiences with flat tires.  So when I reached the access spur to a vista point, I pulled off to check it out.

It was quite windy at this spot, but the views–overlooking a mixture of colorful scrub oak and stands of aspen–were interesting.  The light was getting better and I decided to use the opportunity to make some images.  Besides, the road above this point appeared to be even less forgiving than the approach had been.

Courthouse Rock & the Chimney Black & White, Owl Creek Pass, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Courthouse Rock & the Chimney, Owl Creek Pass, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Courthouse Rock & the Chimney, Owl Creek Pass, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

There were some unofficial trails at this location that provided access to some different perspectives and I wandered around on a couple of them before finding one I liked.  There I set up and, despite the wind (it was quite gusty) I pulled out the telephoto lens.

Scrub Oak & Aspens, Owl Creek Pass, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Scrub Oak, Owl Creek Pass, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Scrub Oak & Aspens, Owl Creek Pass, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

 

Scrub Oak, Owl Creek Pass, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Courthouse Rock & the Chimney, Owl Creek Pass, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

This location didn’t work well for sunset–it was facing the wrong direction–so I began the trek back down the rutted road in hopes of finding something better.  I wasn’t particularly successful.  While the sky was highly compelling–as in the north-facing scene below–I was striking out in terms of compositions.

Owl Creek Pass Sunset, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

I stopped several times and finally found something I thought was halfway decent (but only halfway).  It was still windy, which was a real problem as shutter speeds were becoming quite long.  The setting sun, however, was too exceptional to ignore.

Owl Creek Pass Sunset, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

The light show faded quickly from this point, bringing the day’s photography to an end.

The next day would be spent on an extensive investigation of the areas between Ridgway and Telluride.


Responses

  1. These are extraordinary photographs. I especially like the Aspen forest in golden hues.

    • Thanks very much!

  2. Very Nice Series! Enjoyed seeing them!

  3. I didn’t think I would find a photo I liked better than the first one of the sunrise at Lost Lake Slough. Then I got to the final photo of sunset at Owl Creek Pass. Everything in between was lovely, too, but these bookends to the set are really special.

    • Thanks, Ellen!

  4. Loved the first one best (Lost Lake Slough at Sunrise). Not to take anything away from the rest, but that sunrise has all the elements I love most: the clouds, the snow-capped mountains, reflections and COLOR. 😀

    What a great trip.

    • Thanks, Gunta! You’d really like the Rockies in the fall–a rainbow of color everywhere. 🙂

      • So true… I lived in the Rockies for about 14 years. We made it up to Silverton, perhaps Ouray, too. Hard to remember all these years later. Though nothing quite beats the Canadian Rockies in my opinion. 🙂 Growing up in New England, there’s also that comparison to the fall colors there. Perhaps it’s why I find B&W conversion so disheartening?
        Having said that, your images do bring out the best no matter where you roam. Great stuff, as usual!

        • Thanks for the kind words.

          I’m not sure anything beats the variety of color in New England. As much as I like the western parts of the North Woods (i.e. the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, northern Wisconsin, etc.) there isn’t as much red as in New England (no swamp maples, for one thing).

          I think for sheer color during the fall Colorado pretty clearly has the Canadian Rockies beat–there are simply more aspen groves and the groves themselves are larger. On the other hand, for general landscape photography, I’d have to go with the Canadian Rockies; there’s more subject variety (there are no glaciers in Colorado, which also means no glacially fed bodies of water and the distinct aqua-blue color they produce).

          In any event, a fall spent photographing in any of these places would elicit no complaints from me.

  5. Beautiful sunset photos.

    Since you do a fair bit of hiking for your photography, do you find others doing the same, or they sticking mainly to overlook areas to take vista-type images? I do think one needs to get off the beaten trail to gather a sense of an area, and capture scenes no one else would.

    • Thanks, David!

      Re the matter of hiking…great question! So good, in fact, that you have motivated me to make it the topic of the next post (probably next Monday). Thanks for the inspiration!

      • Occasionally, the light bulb goes on, lol. 🙂

  6. […] a comment appended to the post chronicling Day 9 of my Colorado trip last fall, David, of the Hidden Lens blog, asked a poignant […]

  7. […] spend what was left of the day’s light back up on Owl Creek Pass, where I had shot sunset on Day 9.  The subject matter there, I felt, would work in angular light.  There probably wouldn’t […]

  8. Wow, spectacular pictures! The colors you captured are unbelievable.

    • Thanks very much!

  9. Beautiful images!! Kebler pass is usually so busy during fall, so nice you had it to yourself!!

    • Thanks very much!

      I didn’t really have Kebler to myself all of the time…or even necessarily most of the time. But, by poking around a bit and getting off the beaten path, it was the case PART of the time, and I’m thankful for that.

  10. Good day

  11. Gorgeous photos!

  12. I have been to Colorado a couple of times while I was living in the states and looking back, I wish I had visited it more often.

    • SW Colorado in the fall was on my to-do list for a long, long time. I finally had the opportunity to scratch that itch last autumn.


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