Posted by: kerryl29 | May 18, 2021

The Story Behind the Image: Aspens Forever

I apologize for the lack of content lately, but a great deal of recent travel (and other unrelated events) has made it difficult for me to produce new posts. That will change in the very near future as, beginning this week, I now have the opportunity to process a trove of imagery that has been made over the past couple of months. In the meantime, I hope another “Story Behind the Image” will help bridge the gap.

When I was in Colorado several autumns ago, I spent a great deal of time poking around aspen groves and forests. This is partly due to the fact that aspens are incredibly striking in the autumn and partly because I’m fascinated by birches and aspens, due to their unique black and white trunks. One day while I was in the San Juan Mountains, I meandered over Coal Bank Pass near the end of the day. I visited several overlooks, which encouraged me to view the scenes unfolding (mostly) below me with both relatively wide angle and telephoto focal lengths.

As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I tend to go with longer lenses when I photograph from overlooks; the exception is when there’s something of foreground interest that captures my attention, but that is decidedly not the rule. And that pattern held while I was at the Coal Bank overlooks.

The way I typically handle long lens situations from an overlook is to scan the scene with the naked eye and, when I spot a detail that appears interesting, I pull out the camera with the telephoto lens attached and have a closer look, to see if what I initially noticed holds up to tighter scrutiny. Typically what I’m seeing is some sort of pattern, a set of converging lines, or some other form of graphic interest.

Since a telephoto lens, by its very nature, is going to compress the scene, the considerations as to what will make for a compelling subject are typically completely different than those that represent potential wide angle photo opportunities. While depth–broadly speaking, bringing a three-dimensional feel to a two-dimensional medium–is ordinarily a prime concern when working with a wide angle lens, it’s not usually a principal consideration when working with telephoto focal lengths, though there are certainly exceptions to both sets of rules…or guidelines, if you prefer.

On this occasion, at Coal Bank Pass, what caught my attention was a seemingly endless stand of aspens on an adjacent slope. This was hardly the first time on the trip that I had seen an apparently infinite “sea” of aspens, but what made this occurrence different was my perspective relative to the stand. Because of the height of my perch relative to the subject, the trunks of many of the aspen strata were plainly visible, rather than just the nearest stand. Instead of an endless expanse of aspen crowns, the lines that made up the various sets gave the scene a very different look and feel.

I pulled out the telephoto lens and, after zooming to 140 mm, I found the patterned look that I felt best represented what had attracted my eye to the scene in the first place.

Voila. Aspens forever.

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


  1. Great tip and photo, Kerry.

  2. The vertical lines of the trunks crossed by the yellow lines of the tree tops make for an interesting pattern.

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