Colorado Wildflowers are Blooming in the San Juans

What kind of flowers are currently blooming in the Mountains of Colorado?

Purple Fringe grows prolifically along this rocky mountain cliff.  Near Highland Mary Lakes in the Weminuche Wilderness. ©Kit Frost

Purple Fringe grows prolifically along this rocky mountain cliff. Near Highland Mary Lakes in the Weminuche Wilderness. ©Kit Frost

Blue Vervain, Colorado Blue Columbine, Silvery Lupine, Orange Paintbrush, Parry’s Primrose, Elephant’s Heads, Sky Pilot, Larkspur, Dusky Beardtongue, Purple Fringe, Fairy Trumpet, to name a few; the wildflower bloom is ON in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado.

Above 12,000 feet we hiked alongside fields of Alpine Phlox, Dwarf Clover, Rosy and Sulphur Paintbrush, Old Man of the Mountain, and Moss Campion.  Along the ridge lines I photographed Purple Fringe and Asters, while along the creeks at lower altitudes a mix of Elegant Death Camas, Orange and Rosy Paintbrush, and Sky pilot greeted us in movement and color.

Some locations, like the rocky backdrop for the purple fringe below are along high altitude ridge lines.  The hike to this location is from the Highland Mary Lakes trailhead.  I like to challenge myself physically and photographically to capture these beauties while they last.  Late July snowfields in the background add interest and location to this image.

Other Wildflower Blogs by Kit Frost

A low camera angle (I was laying on the ground) allows me to show the big scene as well as the wilds. ©Kit Frost

A low camera angle (I was laying on the ground) allows me to show the big scene as well as the wilds. Highland Mary Lakes. ©Kit Frost

Join us for lessons on using your digital camera to capture these beauties, we take you to amazing locations in the San Juan Mountains north of Durango, Colorado.  July 26, 9am-4pm, August 1st, August 8th, August 15th, 2pm-7pm.  Email kit@kitfrost.com for more information or to schedule private lessons on how to use your digital camera.

Often by late July, the only places to find Parry's Primrose along high altitude creeks.  This group was photographed at Clear Creek.  ©Kit Frost

Often by late July, the only places to find Parry’s Primrose along high altitude creeks. This group was photographed at Clear Creek. ©Kit Frost

 

 

South Park-52

Although a 3 mile hike to this location along the Silverton/Rico trail, the trail is clear, and the surrounding mountains really add to the photos. ©Kit Frost

I like to include reflections of nearby cliffs in the creeks to grab the interest of the viewer. ©Kit Frost

I like to include reflections of nearby cliffs in the creeks to grab the interest of the viewer. Columbus Basin, La Plata Canyon©Kit Frost

 

 

Creating a “sense of place” in your photos

When composing my photos,  I try to give the viewer a “sense of place”. Sometimes I include a small creek alongside the main subject, or I use a boulder or rock in the water to “anchor” the viewer.  Often when photographing wildflowers in a high altitude basin, I show some of the surrounding mountains.  I like to think of my compositions as having a “star of the show” and a supporting cast.

A sense of place is created by including the creek, as well as the wilds. I think of the Elegant Death Camas in this scene as the “stars” of the show and the creek and other wildflowers as the supporting cast. ©Kit Frost
The boulder and snowy land on the left anchor this composition. I could have simply photographed the reflection and the distant high peaks, but instead chose to show a nearby edge of the land to anchor the scene and make it less abstract.  ©Kit Frost
By photographing from a low camera position, this composition includes a strong foreground, middle-ground and shows a sense of place in the distance too. A wide-angle lens helps to really show the full sweep of this composition. Moving in close to the paintbrush in the foreground creates the feeling of size and presence.  My tripod leg was just outside of the scene. Nikon D-5100 w/Nikon 16-85 lens ©Kit Frost

“Working” your subjects in photography

In the San Juan National Forest, one of the most prolific wildflower locations is Ice Lakes Basin. Here is a mid July creekside composition. ©Kit Frost

When I approach, or am seduced by a subject, I make it a habit to walk around with my camera and frame some ideas.  Hand-holding my camera gives me the freedom to “sketch” a few photos.  The compositions that speak to me most are then committed to by setting up the tripod and “taking myself seriously”.  A good practice for me has been to photograph the same subject in a handful of different compositions.  These example show the same subjects in four different compositions.  In this instance, the creek and the wildflowers were my main subject, but as I “worked the subject” I realized that by including the distant background I could give a sense of place to the photo too.  Do you have a preference for one photograph over the others?

Which version do you prefer? ©Kit Frost

Another example of “working the subject”. ©Kit Frost

Ice Lakes lower basin is full of small creekside compositions. ©Kit Frost

Photographing Macro and Close-up Wildflowers

Last evening I taught a Chase the Light Photography workshop.  We worked with a variety of techniques to capture wildflowers in a high altitude basin. One of the tools to think about is how important it is to really explore the land.  In demonstrating and walking around, I spied a moth sitting on a Purple Star Gentian.  There were rosy paintbrush in the foreground too.  So the techniques are simple:

  1. Do not disturb the wildlife, so use your manual focus instead of auto focus which can make some noise.
  2. Slowly move closer and closer to your subject.
  3. Think about focus, and choose the appropriate focus point in the composition. (in this case I focused on the eyes of the moth)
  4. Shallow depth of field will work just fine. (this example was exposed at f 5.6)
  5. Try this technique with creating macro images of each of the different wildflowers in the field.  You’ll come away with quite a substantial collection as the wilds are prolific and varied right now.

Colorado Landscape Photos edited in Adobe Lightroom

As we summited the saddle near the Grenadiers, I was greeted with light painting just south of the lake where we planned to camp. I really enjoy watching the clouds paint the land with shadow and light. Capturing the light at just the right time is what photography is all about for me. In the mountains clouds form quickly and can build up a dynamic storm in the afternoon and early evening.  ©Kit Frost, all rights reserved

Just a short hike uphill from the camp, I sat for hours watching the shadows flow across the land.  I chose this exposure because I wanted the foreground trees and gulch to separate from the background peaks. My standard workflow for landscape images with clouds is to use a Tiffen Graduated Neutral Density filter and to shade the filter from the sun (with my hat). I use the Lightroom editing panel to open up shadows, paint highlights using the adjustment brushes and I add saturation to each area that “felt” saturated at the time of exposure.

I looked for a sweet foreground to show the reflection and moonrise. The alpine avens bunch met the bill. I focused on the near flowers and underexposed to hold sky detail. In Lightroom I opened up the shadows using the fill light adjustment. I added a Lightroom Graduated Filter adjustment to darken the sky and the moon and clouds too. ©Kit Frost, all rights reserved

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