Colorado. Where else can you hike to a 12,000-foot hut one morning, take an 1800’s-era steam-powered train the next, and ply the sheer vertical cliffs of purple-hued mountains the day after? The big question is, how do you find and photograph Colorado's best landscapes? For a photographer in this massive state, the options can become overwhelming very quickly. Do you want to go straight to the iconic postcard spots and stand shoulder to shoulder with dozens of other photographers? Or do you want to embark on a classic Colorado adventure? There are plenty of ways to do both, however, I'd argue that your images will be more interesting and dynamic if you tell a story that encompasses the journey and the destination.
Whether I’m on a professional assignment or shooting just for fun, I try to incorporate all the angles. From the bird’s eye view (courtesy of my drone) to the minute and seemingly trivial details. Especially my mode of transport. Even if that mode happens to be my own two feet. In the end, the journey itself is often where you’ll find the best content, especially in the Rockies.
RIDE A HISTORIC TRAIN
In this video that I produced for Fujifilm North America, I sought out one of Colorado’s most iconic railways. On its way through 14,000 foot peaks, the Durango Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad ambles over trestle bridges and winds through a deep river canyon, revealing hidden treasures that you can’t see any other way. The end of the line deposits you into Silverton, a historic mining town that boasts some of Colorado’s best mountain scenery. The first time I arrived in Silverton, I was blown away by its colorful buildings and jagged mountains on all sides, not to mention the massive coal fired locomotive itself as it parks squarely in the middle of downtown. The whole experience is a visual feast. I think I filled all of my SD cards in under two hours flat.
Ride the DSNGR train in mid to late September for fall colors and white dusted mountain tops.
- More Colorado railways:
TAKE A BACKCOUNTRY HIKE
Hiking is one of the best ways to experience Colorado’s magical vistas. All over the state, countless hikes provide endless fodder for any shutterbug. Whether your hike is ten minutes or ten days long, getting off the beaten path will open up a whole new world photographic possibilities.
One of my favorite ways to explore the mountains of Colorado is by hiking to an alpine hut. In this assignment for Backpacker magazine, I ventured up into the San Juan Mountains and stayed overnight at the Burn Hut. Staying in a hut means that you can carry a much lighter load than your typical backpacking trip. For this trip I didn’t have to carry a tent, sleeping bag, pillow or extra water. These basic comforts were there for me after photographing one of the best viewpoints in all of Colorado: the Wilson Creek overlook at Mount Sneffels.
Go light with a small tripod or better yet, one that is made of carbon. Just pack the bare essentials like a wide angle lens for landscapes or a general purpose zoom. Don’t forget extra batteries and SD cards!
- Colorado hut systems:
DRIVE A SCENIC BYWAY
Road trips will always be one of my favorite ways to photograph Colorado's best landscapes. Road trips are also one of the best hacks for getting your creative juices flowing. Colorado has 26 scenic byways and every one of them will captivate your senses with a diverse array of magical landscapes. As a Denver photographer, I was hired by the city’s premiere magazine, 5280, to drive the Trail of Ancients Scenic Byway near the Four Corners. While this byway touches famous sites like Mesa Verde, it also takes you to stunning, lesser-known remnants of ancient civilizations, not to mention sweeping gorges and towering sandstone cliffs. For this story I brought my friend Brook along to feature in some lifestyle images and capture the spirit of the open road.
Don’t underestimate how large this state is, even by car. Choose one particular region of Colorado (i.e. Southwest CO) and dive deep. I’ve lived in Colorado for fifteen years and I still have yet to drive through all of it.
- Additional Resources:
HOW DO YOU LIKE TO FIND AND PHOTOGRAPH COLORADO’S BEST LANDSCAPES?
Do you have any tips for photographing Colorado landscapes? If so, we'd love to hear them.
Please comment below to add any information you'd like to share. Thank you and happy shooting!
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