It’s exhausting being at 3,000m all the time. I had no idea really. Following my road trip with my girlfriend around California and Oregon I flew to Denver to meet some photographers for a few weeks in the Colorado mountains to hopefully catch the aspen trees at their peak. Colorado is high…seriously high…aside from the legalisation of cannabis, the towns we were staying in were at almost 3000m and some of the mountain passes we were driving and walking around were almost 4,000m.
I’d never been that high really before, aside from one night staying at Bryce Canyon which is about 3,000m if I remember correctly. I was hoping the altitude would’t affect me, as it starts becoming a problem for some people at around 2,500m. I managed to avoid the nausea and headaches that some people get, but it’s really exhausting trying to walk around at 3,000 – 4,000m. It was fine on the flat, but as soon as I started to walk up hill I was out of breath in about 30-40 paces and then had to stop for a few seconds. I’m far from the fittest or healthiest person in the world but even so the difference was very noticeable compared with my walking around in California and Oregon.
Anyway, enough of me whinging about feeling old and feeble and on to the photos. After meeting at Denver airport we started the drive to Snowmass village, stopping in Aspen for some dinner (at an English pub, of course). On the way there was an absolutely biblical sunset, but we weren’t anywhere to make use of it.
What followed was 11 days of photographing trees. Lots of trees. Sometimes the occasional mountain, but really just trees. This was pretty much right up my alley as in the last year or so I have developed a bit of an obsession with photographing trees. I find them a good challenge. They don’t offer the same obvious compositions as things like seascapes. There’s no grand view. There are very few places in the world where you can go to a location and point your camera at the same tree as a hundred other people to get a common photo. They look different every year, and every month throughout the year. It’s all about trying to find something that works from the jumbled mix of branches and leaves that you find pleasing. You can shoot pretty much throughout the day without needing to rely on sunrise or sunset. I love trees…not in a weird way…well, maybe…And if you want to photograph trees, Colorado in the Autumn (or Fall if you’re that way inclined) seems to be the best place to do it.
The colours were amazing. As some kind of cousin to the silver birch trees we have in the UK (I guess, I’m no horticulturalist) the aspens provide an unbelievable show. Some greens, lots of yellows, some oranges and if you’re lucky patches of reds. The trees have an amazing variety of shapes as well, some are tall bare white trunks all the way to the top with a sprinkling of leaves that are trying to reach the light, other are short and twisted and bright yellow from top to bottom.
I won’t go through a day by day account simply because I can’t really remember what we did or where we went each day. After a few days in Snowmass we moved to Ouray for the rest of the time. There was a lot of driving and a lot of image making. It all kind of forms a bit of a blur of yellow. We visited a number of locations several times hoping for the best colour or the best light, and explored a lot of random un-named roads just trying to follow each of these things. Some of the locations such as Dallas Divide, Last Dollar Road, Owl Creek Road were pretty amazing, but equally a lot of images were made stopping here or there where there was something special happening. Over the next few months as I get time to process the images a number will appear in the trees gallery of this website but until that time here’s one I made earlier (or several actually).
I have to admit it was harder than I thought. Sometimes the compositions would jump out at you, but most of the time there was a lot of working a scene to try and get the elements organised and a lot of completely failed attempts. Having said that, it makes it more rewarding when you’ve found yourself something that works and know very few people are going to have a similar photo to you…then you’ve made an image, not taken a photograph…or I could just go to Corfe Castle and Durdle Door again….