Colorado Wildflower Location Information

Everything you need to know to get out and make photographs of Colorado’s awesome Wildflower displays.

July 29, 2013


A group of students and I went up to 11,000 feet, to Clear Lake.  Although the wildflowers at that locations are usually awesome, I was disappointed.  This year, we have been in such a serious drought in the Southwest, and the flowers sure reflect the lack of moisture. But, the Indian, Rosy and Sulphur Paintbrush were the stars of the show in the Clear Lake Basin.  By the end of this week I would doubt there will be very good flowers left, even with our daily thunderstorms and rain.

Compositionally I like this image, but wish the clouds were painting some shadows on the ridge line in the background.  The camera position here is very low to the ground, so I used LIVE VIEW on my Nikon D5100 and tilted the LCD to get the foreground flowers to pop and add emphasis to them.

July 26, 2012

I went out yesterday evening to scout the wildflowers for today’s Wildflower Photography workshop.  We headed up to Clear Lake in the San Juan Mountains.  The location is rarely without wilds this time of year.  What I love about Clear Lake is that its got so much of why I spend so much time in the mountains of Colorado.  From the 12,000 vantage points you can see mountain peaks, cloud formations, creek falls and wildflowers.  And then there’s Clear Lake, an alpine tarn.

The drive up to Clear Lake is along a jeep road and sometimes can be crowded, especially on weekends when I run into lots of folks at the Ice Lakes trailheads.  But last night was quiet.  The wilds are fading, there are no more Brook Cress and Parry’s primrose and I only saw a single bunch of Columbine.

Tonight I’ll be teaching the following photography techniques:

  1. Macro photography, close up views of the wilds.
  2. Compression of space, using the longer zoom lenses in the 200-300mm length
  3. Creek fall flow
  4. Wide views, especially reflections in the middle pond at Clear Lake.
  5. Capturing the quiet light between 7 and 8pm.

Here are a few gems from the scouting adventure

One sure sign of the start of Wildflower season in Colorado is the appearance of Parry’s Primrose along creeks, meadows and beside alpine tarns.  This group caught my eye as we were filtering some water at Highland Mary Lakes.  I am pleasantly surprised that the wildflowers are blooming in abundance, since we’ve had such a dry year here in the Southwest.  Although most of the snow has melted, the rain and monsoon patterns are really helping the wilds to bloom.  It’s summer in the mountains!

Because I chose to photograph this group of primrose against a wall of granite, there was no need for deep depth of field, but I still used f20 so I could capture as much of the detail in the leaves, flowers and the wall in the image.  Its often a good idea artistically to choose subjects that the opposites on the color wheel, the vibrant colors of magenta and bright yellow green, against a neutral background really pull this composition together.  Try it.

A sure sign that Wildflower season is underway; Parry’s primrose in bloom ©Kit Frost

Wildflowers in the Rocky Mountains, the San Juan Mountains ©Kit Frost


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