Posted by: kerryl29 | March 19, 2018

Colorado, Day 12: Big Wind

The weather forecast overnight from Day 11 to Day 12 was ominous:  increasingly heavy winds were forecast, with gusts up to 40 MPH anticipated.  This was worrisome, not only because it threatened to wreak havoc with the day’s photography, but also because of what it might do to the foliage moving forward.  Overnight temperatures were below freezing every day and, combined with strong persistent winds, the potential for denuded trees was obvious.

My chosen sunrise location was a spot I’d found on County Road 7 during the previous day’s scout.  It was about seven miles up the unpaved (not always well-maintained) road, so I gave myself plenty of time to get there.  It was near an isolated cabin, just off the road.  It was still dark when I got there, and–surprisingly–not very windy.  But as I meandered around the deserted area, waiting for the light, I’d feel the occasional sudden stiff breeze, only to feel it disappear mysteriously…and then recur after a minute or two.

The sky was almost completely clear and, as the dawn approached, a prominent earthshadow effect appeared to the east.

Rocky Mountain Dawn, County Road 7, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

When the wind was gusting, it was impossible to freeze the vegetation, given the slow shutter speeds needed, but patience was rewarded with lulls in the breeze.

Rocky Mountain Dawn, County Road 7, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

As things continued to brighten, I turned my attention in the direction of the Sneffels Range.

Sneffels Range Dawn, County Road 7, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Sneffels Range Sunrise, County Road 7, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Sneffels Range Sunrise, County Road 7, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Sneffels Range Sunrise, County Road 7, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Sneffels Range Sunrise, County Road 7, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

The longer I waited, the more the wind became a factor but, again, there were lulls and I tried to take advantage of them.  The feel of the scene changed dramatically as the sun’s rays made a direct impact.  Both the wide angle and telephoto lenses stood me in good stead.

Sneffels Range Sunrise, County Road 7, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Sneffels Spotlight, County Road 7, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Sneffels Range Sunrise, County Road 7, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Sneffels Spotlight, County Road 7, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Sneffels Spotlight, County Road 7, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

I began to retreat back down the road, but stopped once or twice on the way.  The wind seemed to get stronger with each passing minute.

Sneffels Range Sunrise, County Road 7, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Suncatcher Clouds, County Road 7, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Sneffels Range Black & White, County Road 7, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

I took a run past County Road 9, just to check out the areas near the lower part of the road, minus the foggy conditions I’d encountered the previous day.  The pastures, replete with bales of hay, took on an entirely different feel.

Hay Bales Black & White, County Road 9, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Hay Bales, County Road 9, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

I went further up County Road 9 and, even though the light was slowly deteriorating, produced a few more shots.

Spotlit Aspens, County Road 9, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Ranch Gateway Black & White, County Road 9, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Autumn Mountainside, County Road 9, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

At this point, the bright light was welcome in one sense–it enabled the higher shutter speeds necessary to freeze the subject matter, because by now the wind was blowing like mad.  I retraced my steps and then made my way to County Road 5, and covered part of that road for the second straight day.

Sun-Splashed Aspens, County Road 5, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Sun-Splashed Aspens, County Road 5, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Sneffels Aspen Foreground, County Road 5, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

It was only late morning at this point and so I made my way in the direction of Telluride to explore some areas–specifically, Woods Lake and Wilson Mesa–that I hadn’t had the opportunity to check out on Day 10, due to the afternoon rain.

This part of the San Juans had been a few days shy of peak, you’ll recall, when I’d visited the area two days prior, so I was anxious to see what kind of color progression had taken place.  What I saw shocked me–and not in a good way.  These areas were rather picked over–past peak.  It appeared that the wind had simply stripped many of the trees of leaves before they had ever reached peak color.  Despite the less than stellar conditions (it was just as windy here as it had been on the other side of the Sneffels Range), I took a few shots at the lake, including aspen stands that were still in relatively good shape.

Woods Lake, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

I then made my way to Wilson Mesa–which took some work to locate.  I found this area very interesting, with its wooden fences, rustic buildings, tall grasses and wide open views.  I only produced a few images, given the conditions, and put this location–which was also plainly past peak–on a list of places to revisit if/when I make it back to southwest Colorado in the fall.

Wilson Mesa, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

It was late afternoon at this point and I decided to return to a predetermined spot on County Road 7 for sunset.  The wind, mercifully, had died down considerably by that point and this location had still been in good shape (foliage-wise) when I had visited earlier in the day.

On my way up to the sunset spot, I stopped at a few locations that caught my eye.  While the wind had dropped significantly it was still a bit of a factor when I tried to do some photo stacking so I had to be patient and wait for lulls which, eventually, came.

Box Elder Autumn, County Road 7, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Most of these interim shots were made with either short or long telephoto focal lengths; I eschewed anything wider than a normal perspective for this particular shoot.

Mountainside Autumn, County Road 7, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Autumn’s Tapestry, County Road 7, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Autumn’s Tapestry, County Road 7, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

I reached my preordained destination about 30 minutes before sunset–just in time.  I was perched up on the roadside, with a meadow, buttressed by aspen groves, below me, serving as a Mt. Sneffels foreground.  A creek flowed through the meadow and groves.  There were a few clouds in the sky, which aided the scene.

Mt. Sneffels Sunset, County Road 7, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

As the light improved, more clouds appeared behind the Sneffels Range, to my advantage.  And fortunately, the previously ferocious wind had dropped to virtually nothing.

Mt. Sneffels Sunset, County Road 7, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Mt. Sneffels Sunset, County Road 7, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

And then…a whole bunch of fluffy clouds drifted into the southern sky, behind the Sneffels Range and I hastened to capture this beautiful scene.  Right on cue, the clouds lit up as the last rays of sunlight slowly vanished from the peak of Mt. Sneffels.

Mt. Sneffels Sunset, County Road 7, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Mt. Sneffels Sunset, County Road 7, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Mt. Sneffels Sunset, County Road 7, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Mt. Sneffels Sunset, County Road 7, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

I would head back to the south side of the Sneffels Range for sunrise the next day…


Responses

  1. Great post and pics! Especially like the black and white ones!

    • Thanks! I have a tendency to wonder about the wisdom of posting b/w images from what was ostensibly a fall color shoot, so your feedback is much appreciated. 🙂

      • Welcome! I especially like black and white photographs. The color ones are great, too!

  2. The light at sunrise and sunset makes those shots really special.

  3. Thanks for this post! I grew up in Colorado (eastern plains), but I’ve never explored in the area that you’re visiting.

    • I drove through the eastern Colorado plains twice on this trip–on the way to and from SW Colorado from the Midwest. (I believe this was my fourth round trip through eastern CO, but my previous drives through were 20-30 years ago. If you’re at all interested in mountain photography–and everything that entails–the San Juans represent arguably the best locale in the U.S. in which that itch can be scratched.

  4. Nice sunrise photos of the Sneffels Range.

    When the wind comes at brutal speeds, they can strip those aspens in a short amount of time. And, very fickled – windy here, not windy there at the same time.

    • Yep, I saw some degree of that windy fickleness when I was out there, as I’ll relate in future installments.

  5. beautiful photo.

  6. I love your photographs here. Awesome.

    • Thanks very much!

  7. […] on Day 13, my wanderings in the general vicinity of the southern end of Last Dollar Road on Day 12 left me concerned; the “big wind” had stripped many aspen stands of their leaves even […]

  8. […] the weather forecast and the condition of the foliage, I began to think on Day 12 (Oct. 4) that I might cut the trip–which was to have continued through the morning of October […]


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