I had the recent pleasure of participating in the Telluride Photo Festival. As its namesake implies, this festival is located in one of the premier locations for fall foliage in the Rocky Mountains. Telluride is hopelessly beautiful, rugged and even a bit remote. It’s a classic mountain town, with over the top log homes, deluxe lodges and a bustling main street with an eclectic array of galleries, eateries and boutiques.
My focus throughout the week was threefold: teaching a three-day workshop on capturing the complete outdoor image, attendee portfolio reviews, and a seminar on environmental active lifestyle imagery. All told, it was a busy week full of beautiful imagery, lots of laughs and new relationships forged with wonderful people. I was joined by my trusty assistant/sidekick, Nate Sorensen and we had a blast driving countless dirt roads through a winding maze of foliage, underbrush and cattle guards in search of inspiring locations for my workshop. The Mark Miller Subaru Outback was a rally machine! Minor note, however: the road tires that came with Suby are not meant for some of Colorado’s finer dirt road shred sessions.
Located at the head of a deep box canyon, Telluride (elev. 8,750 ft.) is already a significant hop, skip and jump above sea level. That should give some indication as to how tall the surrounding peaks are. The San Juan mountain range makes up a healthy portion of those surrounding peaks, and they’ve long been a fall photography destination at the top of my list. They did not disappoint.
Huge, sprawling stands of aspen were peppered with yellow, orange and green splotches of color, only to stand in stark contrast against sky scraping peaks like Wilson Peak and Mt. Sneffels. Spending the whole week in the area, it was interesting to see nature’s subtle nuances as colors ebbed and flowed each day. It’s amazing how much an area can change overnight, and we were certainly witness to this in many of the classic drives in the area.
There are countless sunrise/sunset photo locations in the area, and we were fortunate to have gorgeous dawn skies at both the Dallas Divide and West Dallas Creek Road. Especially with clear skies and uninteresting weather, dawn/dusk are some of the best times to capture saturated, even colors with deep skies. The lack of direct light, and the glow emanating from the far horizon make for fantastically detailed landscapes that have a rich, subtle glow to them. It wasn’t uncommon to see most people show up to similar locations 20 minutes or so after we’d begun shooting. By that time, skies were pale, and we were preparing for first light.
We were blessed with ominous clouds and killer color at Lizard Head Pass one evening for sunset. Low light and intermittent overcast skies made for fantastic directional lighting as well as soft, diffused indirect light. The greatest thing about fall is the way the landscape and color changes with different types of light. The workshop was a huge success, and my group of students was fantastic–always eager to learn and practice some of the new technique they’d learned with their Singh Ray Filters.
Towards the end of the week, five straight days of 5 am wakeup calls had caught up to us. I took a breather from sunrise shoots and focused my efforts on portfolio reviews. I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of work. It’s always an inspiration to see work from other photographers (whether aspiring or veteran) and it never fails to give me a new outlook on the world in which we live.
I wrapped up the week with a seminar on environmental active lifestyle imagery. Many thanks to my sponsors Arc’teryx, Clikelite Backpacks and Mountain Khakis for providing some schwag to share with the crowd. I can honestly say there are few places as majestic as Telluride. The photographic opportunities are endless, the people are kind-hearted and the Telluride Photo Festival proved a perfect forum for learning and photographic enrichment from some huge names in the business (Tim Kemple, Rob Haggart, Kristen Fortier (Men’s Journal), Mark Lesh (Skiing mag), Julia Vandenoever (Backpacker Mag) Tom Till and many, many more. Keep an eye out for next year’s lineup–should be a doozy!