A good weekend to take a PASS

The time from mid-September to the first week of October is an ideal time to catch the changing aspen, cottonwood and other high country trees all through  mountain areas of the state.  Colorado has about 75 mountain passes that can be traversed by a vehicle and this weekend I was able to hit 7 of them.  Cottonwood, Schofield, McClure, Kebler, Slumgullion, Spring Creek and La Veta were all the ascents and descents that I was able to cross as the jeep made a loop through southwest Colorado engaging in an early tour of the golden aspen foliage.  Leaf peepers burn up a lot of fossil fuels taking driving tours to watch the changing colors of our wooded wilderness.  Some would liken this exercise to watching grass grow or paint dry but there is something very special about gazing off over a grand vista to see a river of color pouring off some of the highest peaks in North America. 


As vast and as in your face as some of these color changes are, getting a truly great foliage image is not nearly as easy as it may seem. time of day, angle of light, the condition of the sky, and background elements all play a role in how dramatic the image may appear after capture.   Here are a couple of tips that really make a difference in the level of impact of a fall foliage image. 

  • Back lighting -  In Colorado the small golden aspen leaves can create a glow and illumination that makes an image look like it is plugged in to an outlet.  Getting the sun behind the stand of golden aspen can be a shot that will forever remind the viewer that change is good. 
  • Getting up early to catch the sunrise and shooting to the west.  Early in the morning there is less haze in the air. The low angle of the suns rays through a longer section of the earths atmosphere create a golden glow that complements the changing leaves in the landscape. 
  • Use planning tools like the Photographers Ephemeris or android apps like Sun Board to ensure that the time spent getting to the shooting location yields the correct angle and direction of light and shadow.  There is nothing more frustrating that getting to a photo location and realizing that the location that you spent so much time getting to in the morning is set up to be an evening shot or vice versa.