Try this one out for some fall foliage festivities: the Meadow Creek Trail, right off of I-70 near the town of Frisco, Colorado (Exit 203). A 2.6 mile round-trip medium-steep hike will take you up to Lily Pad Lake and back, through a wonderful aspen colony. As you climb up the slope, you’ll also get some nice views of Dillon Reservoir and Peak 1/Tenmile Peak, as well as other surrounding high peaks.
Here you have the classic, somewhat cliché, “looking up” shot with the somewhat classic and cliché sunstar effect (f/16) using a super-wide angle lens (14mm). The challenge, these autumn days, is how to find a perspective that hasn’t already been photographed a million times before by Aunt Betty, Uncle Bob, and your grandmother:
Or, maybe swap out to the telephoto lens and try a vertical shot, framing some particularly colorful aspen between the shadowed trunks of their stout and vigorous neighbors:
The only aspen here are well into the background. This image is really all about lines…with a sunstar as a focal point:
The bridge over the creek is a nice slim-shady spot to practice your slow shutter water photography:
One of the viewpoints along the trail, with 12,805-foot Peak 1 (the mountain that sits right behind Frisco) above:
My interest, though, is in the challenge of discovering more subtle compositions. A photograph like this may not have the same “instant gratification score” for the average viewer, but I prefer a bit of understated complexity when it comes to autumn landscapes…struggling to avoid the cliché along the way:
Take a deep breath, put the first Presidential debate behind you, and get your hiney out the door to view the fall colors before the chill westerly winds whirl and whisk them far, far away!
No need to fight the camera-crazed crowds headed for the obvious, popular, and massive forests of deciduous, either. In areas with more “subtle” autumn characteristics, or in places where those overpowering masses of aspen, oak, maple, dogwood, redbud, or crape myrtle are in short supply (as we found in Vedauwoo, Wyoming), you can try instead for a more “intimate landscape”.
Often, you’ll find great subject matter right there at your feet, or in front of your itchy schnoz.
Anthropomorphism: To ascribe human traits, ambitions, emotions, or entire behavior to animals, non-human beings, natural phenomena, or objects. Even rocks.
Do you often see human faces or body parts in inanimate objects when you are out photographing? Then the Faces in Places Flickr Group might be for you. There, you can join others in posting your latest anthropomorphic discoveries. Some are quite unusual, even bizarre.
In the first, once you see the face, you can’t stop seeing it. Examine the left side of this image. The lips are formed by that slightly arching horizontal crack near the bottom. A small nose with a slight shadow below it is just above, and a sort of eye socket can be seen in the upper left corner area:
This one might be a bit of a stretch, unless you are a dentist. Do they look at all like giant teeth (maybe with bits if food on them)? Sorta…sorta…
That’s a nipple on the left. The black water streak in the middle divides his chest. On the right, you can make out the line of his shoulder and arm, but the nipple is missing. I suppose that horizontal line in the upper left would be a scar from a late night knife fight in a bar during Cheyenne Frontier Days:
Finally, I was able to find a monument to The Man himself, Homer Simpson, among the giant rock outcrops. I’ll let you discover him on your own, but the nose is a nice hint–that rounded triangular rock on the right–and he has no eyeball. The more cultured among you might see, instead, the outline of a rather pensive philosopher:
Here is what it came up with for me, once I had filled out the form (and fiddled with a few of the entries to fix some grammar/spelling/flow issues):
Daniel Joder’s Artist Statement
Through my work I attempt to examine the phenomenon of Yogi Bear as a metaphorical interpretation of both Edward Weston and mountaineering.
What began as a personal journey of Bullocksism has translated into images of pizza and big toes that resonate with Maori people to question their own blueness.
My mixed media creations embody an idiosyncratic view of Gandhi, yet the familiar imagery allows for a connection between Elvis, glacial lakes and ice cream cones.
My work is in the private collection of Ted Lange who said ‘Wow!, that’s some real befuddling Art.’
I am a recipient of a grant from Folsom Prison where I served time for stealing mugs and tie clips from the gift shop of The MoMA. I have exhibited in group shows at Jack-in-the-Box and Soho Photo Gallery, though not at the same time. I currently spend my time between my bathroom and Berlin.
My personal result follows–and this one actually smells faintly legit. The unknowing and unsuspecting might even nod solemnly and sagaciously upon reading it!
Daniel Joder, Artist Statement and Biography
Daniel Joder (b.1958, Truth Or Consequences, New Mexico, United States) is an artist who mainly works with photography. By demonstrating the omnipresent lingering of a ‘corporate world’, Joder investigates the dynamics of landscape, including the manipulation of its effects and the limits of spectacle based on our assumptions of what landscape means to us. Rather than presenting a factual reality, an illusion is fabricated to conjure the realms of our imagination.
His photos don’t reference recognizable form. The results are deconstructed to the extent that meaning is shifted and possible interpretation becomes multifaceted. By exploring the concept of landscape in a nostalgic way, he creates intense personal moments masterfully created by means of rules and omissions, acceptance and refusal, luring the viewer round and round in circles.
His works establish a link between the landscape’s reality and that imagined by its conceiver. These works focus on concrete questions that determine our existence. By applying abstraction, his works reference post-colonial theory as well as the avant-garde or the post-modern and the left-wing democratic movement as a form of resistance against the logic of the capitalist market system.
His works demonstrate how life extends beyond its own subjective limits and often tells a story about the effects of global cultural interaction over the latter half of the twentieth century. It challenges the binaries we continually reconstruct between Self and Other, between our own ‘cannibal’ and ‘civilized’ selves.
Daniel Joder currently lives and works in Boulder, Colorado.
Seriously, though, I would suggest you spend 15 bucks on this if you want to put together a real, honest-to-Zeus, artist statement: Writing the Artist Statement, by Ariane Goodwin.
How about some driving related pet peeves this time…
First…Folks who don’t pull over when driving excruciatingly slowly, especially up or down curvy canyons. I don’t like people on my butt, so if I am going slowly, or I am unfamiliar with the area, or I’m sightseeing, I regularly pull over (when safe) and let the faster traffic zip on by. How can someone possibly be comfortable when there are over a dozen cars lined up behind them in the rear-view mirror. Sure, they have every right to do so, but why not just be courteous?
Second…Folks who drive at inconsistent and illogical speeds. For example, they speed up on the straights to well above the speed limit (where you might safely pass them), but slow to a crawl well below even the recommended speed at the slightest bend in the road. And to top it off, as they enter town, they speed up again to bust through the speed limit by 10+mph.
Related phenomenon A: Drivers who drive 50mph, then 65mph, then 55mph, then 70mph (lather-rinse-repeat ad infinitum) along the nearly empty freeway for no apparent reason.
Related phenomenon B: Drivers who step on the gas pedal, then let off, then step on it again, then let off…going along in a series of surges rather than one constant velocity, managed by smooth pressure on the pedal. Sometimes its on the gas, then on the brake, on the gas, on the brake–constantly, with nothing in between.
Third…Folks with automatic transmissions who drive with one foot on the brake and the other foot on the gas at the same time. You can tell because the brake light remains illuminated for a bit even after they start accelerating. Not a very good habit.
And, God help me, there are actually drivers who do all three!
With the aspen and other deciduous leaves all going gangbuster-nutso in the Colorado high country, the tendency is to want to yank the car to an abrupt stop by the side of the road (anywhere! anywhere!), whip out the camera, and attempt to take a picture of the entire grand, colorful, enchilada.
Here’s another thought…try zooming in on the details instead. Especially if your sky is empty blue and boring. Especially if you have a sunny, cloudless day with high contrast. Instead of photographing the entire platter, cast about with your hairy eyeball into the shaded areas within the forest for more intimate portraits.
Hmmm…Does an image of a small part of a landscape say more about the emotion of an area than a huge panorama of that same scene? A good discussion topic.
Don’t aim and fire randomly–look for something that can be an obvious center of interest like this young golden aspen, surrounded by its still very green elders and highlighted by the late afternoon sun. I placed “Goldie” off-center, to the right, partly because it seemed more pleasing that way (rule o’ turds???) rather than centered…but also to contrast this vigorous young tree with its more Charlie-Brown-looking brother on the left. The wonderful mish-mash of fall colors and the nice shadows in the foreground were a plus and helped with environmental context and general framing:
There are little “still life” possibilities scattered all over the place on the forest floor. Keep your eyeball skinned. The key here is the even lighting (overcast day, or shaded area), then working out a pleasing composition using an obvious center-of-interest. (Again, don’t just photograph randomly.) In this case, the infamous rule o’ turds…er…thirds did seem to be the way to go. The original raw file was quite a bit more bland–snoozingly flat even. In post-processing, I increased the contrast and saturation, darkened the pine needle background, and did some burning and dodging on the “star plant” leaves and on some of the assorted colorful surrounding leaves:
Another example of working with an obvious center-of-interest–the 2 1/2 (or four?) young aspen babies. Again, with some creative post-processing, you can darken the background and increase the contrast and saturation (careful, not too much!). Sometimes it is hard to get everything sharp (if that is your goal) if the wind is moving the leaves excessively–you have to wait for the gusts to cycle through, or (sigh) return on a calm day, or happily embrace the movement and deliberately shoot at really slow shutter speeds for a different effect:
Here is another photo with an obvious object o’ interest. In this case, I also used a very narrow depth-of-field (shot at f/4) to blur most of the image with the exception of the gob of berries at the bottom left. Pay just as much attention to your background as you do to the main subject–even when blurred like this–as odd sticks and stones and leaves can show up as distracting lines or blobs of light. As an example, you could argue that the green blob at top and center should have been cloned out. I did do a small bit of clean-up gardening here before shooting–pulling out a couple of small sticks and a blade or two of tall prairie grass:
This photograph is all about the white aspen trunks, their angle, and their strange “eyeballs”…and that one twisty dead tree just right of center. Again, darkening the background, increasing contrast, and some selective dodging of the trees improved the original file dramatically. With direct, high contrast, sunlight, this would be an impossible (or very different) image. With shade, or under an overcast, the lighting (dynamic range) becomes manageable and more pleasing:
Here, I found a nice, cherry-red, stand-out subject for yet another autumn still life. I made sure to place the background logs at diagonals within the frame to add a bit of tension/interest–vertical or horizontal lines (with the logs) would have made the image much more static. What a veritable cornucopia of kaleidoscopian delight in this valley!
In this case, the center-of-interest is obviously a cultural element–that is, human-made. Was this one of the first structures built in this valley by the Delonde family back in the mid-to-late 19th century? What did the local tribes of original Americans (“Homeland Defense, Since 1492”) think about that? Interesting to speculate. I spent some time dodging some of the leaves, aspen trunks, and wooden beams in an attempt to add dimension. I wasn’t completely happy with the meadow on the left–it added a bit of space back there but it also seemed to be a bright distraction to the roving eye of the viewer, so I attempted to darken it a bit. Also, with a scene like this, try shooting from a variety of angles, heights, and distances. Once you get home and see the files on the screen, you might be surprised at which perspective you think is ultimately the best:
The five main objects in this “still life” are the rock, the three aspens, the red bushes, the yellow-green bush, and the grass. Often, photographs are really nothing more than a collection of carefully arranged shapes, textures, and forms. If you squint your eyes and blur your vision, you can see them:
Finally, you’ll notice that none of the above images included any sky. That is because the heavens on this day were blah-blah-boring sans any interesting clouds and quite blue-white bright. Rather than trying to include the bright sky and the dark forest elements in the same image (a dynamic range problem), I just worked in the shade. Eventually, though, as evening flowed over the landscape, a few interesting clouds appeared, along with some subtle, pink, twilight tones. Naturally, my camera followed. Is it the Mother Ship with a baby UFO tagging along behind?
The day after a full moon I get titillated and motivated about the possible photo ops from the top of some high point, ideally a 14er. Why? Well, you get the near full moon setting just after the sun comes up. Having the sun and the moon up at the same time avoids the contrast problem (excessive “dynamic range“, ya know) when you try to shoot the too-bright moon when the sky is still inky dark.
…And, you can hike the night above treeline sans headlamp strapped to the ole cranium, which is a truly surreal, magical, and existential experience.
This trip was also a return to a peak I had done in what were basically winter conditions last spring (although not official “calendar” winter). Then, I had wanted to scramble over to “East Plata” as part of my quest for the 74 named 14er summits, but the snow made things way too scary for my then skill set and equipment. [For a trip report on that Spring 2015 climb, go HERE and compare those much more frigid images with those in this near-autumn post.]
At that time, I justified my retreat from the traverse to East Plata by saying I would come back to climb East via Ellingwood Ridge–except, I wasn’t up for such a massive undertaking this particular weekend. And the possible summit sunrise/moonset photo possibilities were just too seducing for me (I won’t carry my heavy camera gear up Ellingwood Ridge ever). So, maybe next year for Ellingwood…and Kelso Ridge…West Ridge of Quandary, Wham Ridge…Iceland…Nepal…summits in the Pyrenees…the Moon…Mars…and a million other things that seem to get added to the unending, ever-growing, big, bad, and bulging, bucket list.
So, this time up La Plata, the positives: I would get to see the summer trail for the first time, possibly make a few nice photographs from the summit at first light through dawn, and also check out the nature of the rough-looking route over and back to that poor, oft-ignored pile o’ rocks known as East Plata.
There turned out to be an additional bonus I hadn’t counted on: the autumn leaf show in the Independence Pass area! Since I was hiking by headlamp and moonlight on the way up–monochrome vision, essentially–I wasn’t able to fully appreciate Pachamama’s Kodachrome production until the light of day. If you are a golden leaf guy or gal, better get out there this coming week–it will surely be “Peak Week to Peek” in these parts! I am thinking it came a bit earlier than normal this year due to our late August cold snap and snow flurries.
Now, for the full trip report, along with my usual merry montage of inspiring images…
It is still over a week until autumn officially arrives, but the colors are beginning to seep in to the grasses, shrubs and trees at Caribou Ranch just the same. Change–the only constant. The slow and sometimes subtle (sometimes not!) transition is almost more engagingly beautiful than that much heralded time when the colors reach their maximum, probably some two weeks hence.
Caribou Ranch? Yes, we couldn’t stay away from that enchanted place, so we returned yesterday for a walk through the forests and fields, through the mossy-humid, cool, perfume that serves as air in these parts, through the occasional chilly rain shower and the distant roar-rumble of thunder. We returned just a handful of days after leaving the place after my week as a Boulder County artist-in-residence at the red cabin.
Here are some of the images from that seven-kilometer walk…
As you hike in, here is the first solid line o’ sight on the DeLonde Homestead’s red barn–Boulder County’s artist-in-residence cabin. There is a nice sitting bench along the trail here, so park the fanny horizontal, relax, and enjoy the view and the distant calls of the bugling elk:
Chlorophyll production is starting to scale back as the nights grow longer and cooler:
María Rosa Fusté, composes an image. Note the aspen, scarred from multiple elk encounters:
Even the waves of grasses and willows near the swampy areas were exploding with a wonderful palette of autumn color:
In many areas, the transition to fall does not seem to occur in any systematic way. It is often haphazard, with the rhyme and reason only apparent to Mother Nature:
Color, color, everywhere!
Their adolescent single horns makes them look almost like ibexes from Africa:
Yellow, orange and red–right next to spring green:
“And since the 1920s, ambitious professionals, those whose work gets into museums, have steadily drifted away from lyrical subjects, conscientiously exploring plain, tawdry, or even vapid material.”
“To photograph is to confer importance.”
Is it possible to make a passably thoughtful image out of any subject, no matter how mundane, boring, common-place, or apparently empty?
Maybe. Maybe not.
2016 Black & White Magazine, Spotlight Award Winner! (Issue: June, 2017, #121)
All photographs on this website (unless otherwise indicated) were created by and are the property of Daniel R. Joder and may not be used for any purpose without permission. Most of the images you will find here are available for license or purchase. If you are interested in using one of my images for your website, or if you would like a print, please contact me directly (See the Contact and Purchase Prints buttons for more information).