Nikon D850 Captures Incredible Fall Colors of Western Colorado San Juan Mountains 2018

by: Mark Smith

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I'm finally back in Florida but I still have a few adventures from out west and I want to share with you specifically this one I'm gonna show you the amazing fall foliage of western Colorado come on let's go check it out fall that amazing time period when mother nature gives us one final view of beautiful color before plunging is deep into the heart of winter let's do a little exploring and witness this magical season as it transforms the San Juan Mountains of western Colorado into an oasis of golden splendor the Sun is starting to rise and with it come some incredible golden shafts of light this soft beautiful light snakes its way through a faint mist that clings to a small grove of aspen trees these white trunk trees are what we are after we just need to find a grove full of color let's head to an extremely popular area that is always overloaded with photographers eager to catch this early morning light as it soaks an entire mountain range and all of the surrounding foliage this location is known as Dallas Divide and in this shot the Sun is just starting to touch the mountain peaks it rises to the left and this is what this location looks like the moment first light illuminates the entire scene it has been a brutally dry year in Colorado and the lack of water is quite evident in these shots there's no snow on the mountains and while there's plenty of color in the various trees shrubs and plants it isn't the marvelous color we're looking for let's see if we can catch the Sun as it rises on a nearby lake we are now just over nine thousand six hundred feet or 2930 meters in elevation and the massive mountain peaks to the east are still blocking most of the light the temperature is one degree Celsius or a thirty four degrees Fahrenheit it's a dry cold but my sockless sandal covered feet make me wish I had packed my warm wool socks but I'm not complaining because the view here is simply unbelievable let's step back and soak it in while we wait for the Sun to climb over those mountain peaks that's a little better that mountain in the background is appropriately named red mountain and it's red because it's loaded with iron ore it's basically a giant rusty mountain but we're still too close let's take a step back a little further and experience the scene in its entirety this is one of those magical locations that makes you forget about everything the high elevation the freezing temperature the crowd of photographers none of it seems to exist as you stand here but the Sun is coming and it's going to shed some light on an incredible amount of color and we've got to be ready the west side of the lake is just breathtaking the aspen groves hold an amazing array of color and the calm surface of the lake gives us some incredible reflections let's grab some shots while the light is still good shades of yellow orange and gold mingle with light hints of green all of this amazing color is then reflected in the calm still surface of the lake let's step back a little and capture more of the scene the peaks of red mountain add some new color to the already amazing color palette and the small clouds add some nice character to that blue sky let's see if we can get all of those red mountains in the shot there we go now let's see what the scene looks like with a wide 20 millimeter lens that is a glorious display of color lit by early morning light but let's move the clock forward just a bit as we head a little higher into the mountains in search of good light and amazing color whoa now that is a mountain full of color I've never seen anything quite like it and I just had to capture it because it's unbelievable but here's the neat thing about a massive mountain full of color like this one do you see that tiny little section of green in the upper left-hand corner it really stands out against all of that brilliant gold color so let's put on the night core 200 to 500 zoom lens and take a closer look wow what an interesting shot it's amazing how well this Linds renders this far off location with such clarity let's take a closer look at some other areas of this mountain using the same lens being able to sit in one location and not only marvel at this incredible scene but also be able to pick it apart and photograph little sections makes for a practically unlimited supply of awesome photographs if you are a Colorado native this spectacle of color might not seem like that big of a deal but let me tell you there are people on this planet who will never see these amazing landscapes with their own eyes I for one never grow tired of this unbelievable scene let's move up the mountain a little higher and see what we can find before the light gets too harsh and forces us deep into the aspen forest the road up and through the mountains is just amazing it's full of twists and turns like this one and it takes you over ten thousand feet or 3050 meters through the mountains the twists turns and precarious Heights don't seem to stop anyone from soaking in the breathtaking beauty of the surrounding landscapes and our journey it's gonna take us back in time to the small ghost town of Ironton remnants of the old mining town are all that remain this is one of several buildings in the area and directly behind the ghost town is the uncompetitive er uncompress been loosely translated to mean dirty water look at that orange colored water it's all full of rich iron coming from Red Mountain I'm not sure if anything lives in this water but the area was loaded with tasty wild raspberries a little further up the mountain and the aspen trees start to thin out but there are still some old mining buildings well worth photographing it's getting later in the day now and the lights getting a little on the harsh side it's time to go deeper into the Aspen's for some of my favorite type of photography all of the trees that are providing us with this amazing amount of color our quaking aspen trees and if the color isn't amazing enough all of the trees you see in this grove are considered one living organism think about that for a second each tree trunk that you see here isn't one single tree every tree trunk you see is part of the same living organism that comes from the same massive tangled root system right below our feet all the dark spots on the trunks those are scars from old branches that have broken off taking a walk like this through an aspen forest is amazing at times the aspen trees are so thick that they almost block out all of the light and if you position yourself just right you can use these trees to help soften or diffuse the harsh light like this I love grabbing shots of the Sun as it creates those wide beams of light through the trees and if you position yourself just right the Sun coming through those golden aspen tree really creates an amazing glow even though the late daylight is a little on the harsh side it doesn't always mean that you should stop shooting I used this opportunity to grab a couple of shots with a little human element in them to help you get a better perspective on the surrounding area yep that's little old me standing in the road completely amazed by the landscape before me and my son he was nice enough to climb this large boulder so I could get this shot look how far and wide this area goes and the amazing amount of color scattered throughout his Bob Ross would say layer after layer after layer of beautiful color the fall colors aren't the only sights worth seeing in Colorado at this time of year there are also a lot of animals out as well like this Clarks nuthatch who's busy cracking open a pinecone down on the forest floor we have this cute little squirrel who's also busy with a pinecone and out on the edge of the forest we have this beautiful male mule deer with some nice fall foliage behind him this time of year is also the start of the elk rut season and it isn't unusual to see a massive bull elk like this one who was very busy rounding up his harem of female elk let's head back down the other side of the mountain towards one of my favorite towns in Colorado telluride the view down the side of the mountain is just beautiful we have those layers of aspen trees those big open grassy meadows and of course the mountains in the background our destination is right over here behind this Ridge luckily there's a nice dirt road that winds its way down the side of the mountain right into the town of Telluride we'll we will step into a gondola for a ride up and over the mountain riding the gondola is an amazing experience for one it's free too it's powered by solar energy and three it takes you quietly up over the mountains it almost feels like you're flying through the aspen trees and it's a ride that i never get tired of and look there's a cute little town of tell you right now let's grab a quick shot from the top before heading off to our next destination there we go a nice vertical shot that shows the town way down below and the gondola car we use to get here alright let's head to another location for some afternoon light the first location that catches my eye is this brilliant Aspen Grove alive with an amazing golden color those mountain peaks are quite literally the icing on the cake for this image and a short stretch down the road finds me steering and wonder at this amazing view wow that is an incredible amount of aspen trees that are still in the process of changing color it looks like only about 40% of them are showing their fall colors and precise reference that is a road right there this shot was taken with a 50 millimeter lens let's shoot the same scene with a 20 millimeter lens and see how much we can squeeze in Wow that is simply amazing again here's the road for size reference and it looks like the Sun will be setting soon it's time to head back to that same high mountain lake we were at this morning and see if we can catch a brilliant sunset back at the lake and this time the east side of the mountains have some amazing light the wind has picked up a bit but hopefully it will quiet down for the sunset I grab a quick shot of the Sun as it slowly sets behind the mountain range on the right I really want to follow the path but I don't want to miss the possible opportunity for a sunset at this location so I patiently wait as the winds calm down the clouds move in and the Sun drops behind the horizon my weight is well rewarded with this amazing shot of a glorious sunset there's the mountains in the background the amazing fall colors of those beautiful aspen trees the color in the sky and the wind was nice enough to stop and provide me with an incredible reflection on the surface of the water like a little kid who just can't get enough I grabbed one more shot as the last bit of color and light leaves the sky and in this shot I have everything I had in the prior shot with the addition of a rocky lake bottom what a great way to end my amazing trip out west that was just a tiny glimpse into the amazing fall colors of western Colorado this area has a practically unlimited amount of photo opportunities what did you think of it was there a favorite location or a favorite scene that I showed you let me know in the comments below and if you haven't already go ahead and click that thumbs up and share this video that's really helpful to me if you want to come with me and capture your own amazing images of the beautiful fall foliage in western Colorado I've just announced my fall foliage workshop in western Colorado for 2019 check my website for details and as always thanks



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