Golden Aspen Glade

Golden Aspen Glade

13×33 prints are $2,000
20×50 prints are $4,000

When Ruth and I first arrived in Colorado in October 2005 to photograph we were found the aspen trees to be in full color and to begin with we had great sunny weather. We ended up staying five days in Colorado taking seven photographs which I was able to make into exhibition quality Cibachrome prints.

We started off photographing for two days in the Grand Mesa area with the perfect weather conditions of full sun and no wind. Full sun can give harsh, overly contrasty lighting in many situations but in the aspen forests light fills up the forest, with the white trunks, the gold leaves and the pastel ground foliage all reflecting bounce fill light everywhere.

As the weather changed we moved to the Kebler Pass area. A storm was coming but we still had a few days to photograph before the storm would hit and the aspen trees were still in full color so we continued to be optimistic.

We were traveling in our camper van with our two miniature schnauzers and all the camera gear, a bit tight but quite cozy. We had parked our van overnight on an obscure dirt road which lead deep into the forest. The next morning was overcast with scattered showers and unsettled weather. Although the aspen leaves had began to fall the forest was still gorgeous and dense and I knew there were possibilities of incorporating the soft lighting and weather conditions in an aspen photograph.

We were all by ourselves in the forest, quiet and peaceful. There was light rain which came and went, dampening the leaves and bringing out more color. The rain intensified the nutlike fragrance of recently fallen aspen leaves. Leaving Ruth and the dogs in the van, I walked in the light rain through the forest searching for an image. I was looking for something that might convey the peace, quiet and vibrant sense of life that I was experiencing at that moment.

It took some time before I realized that a panoramic format image would best convey the enveloping sense of the forest that surrounded me. I can use my 8x10 camera to make panoramic images by masking off one half at a time to make two 4x10 exposures on one piece of film.

When I found the composition I was looking for I called Ruth using our two way radios and she drove the van over to where I was. With her help I set up the camera and then waited for the weather to cooperate. Normally I don’t wait for weather to cooperate since it’s uncertain and unpredictable but in this case there was a good chance that everything could come together.

Still, the rain came and went, the wind would gust and then be calm. The storm was definitely developing. At least three times we had to take the camera off the tripod, cover the tripod and wait in the van with the camera, bellows extended and two wet dogs for the rain to pass.

But between the rain showers I was able to make four exposures of this scene, this being the last one and the best. A view camera has no view finder so I had to memorize the exact framing of this image while waiting for the clouds and the lighting to come together. The clouds were rapidly moving and I waited until they complemented the composition, with a light band of white clouds between the tops of the background trees and the dark clouds overhead.I used a 240mm lens at f/22 for 1/15 second.

This was the last photograph of the day as the storm came in heavy and strong. We retreated for two days to an excellent hotel in Crested Butte which had bargain off-season rates. When the storm was over we discovered that all the aspen leaves were on the ground so we packed up and headed east to the Appalachian mountains but that’s another story.

Format: Panoramic (horizontal)
Location: Colorado
Reference key: gag