How the Art Happens - East River Red

November 13, 2019  •  Leave a Comment

East River Red

East River RedEast River RedBright red sunrise clouds provide a red reflection in the meanders of the East River near Crested Butte, Colorado.

This small but beautiful river meanders through a valley just a few miles from my home. I spend lots of time exploring and enjoying the lines created as it snakes for miles down the valley. The road to the Rocky Mountain Biological Lab at Gothic, Colorado offers plenty of overlooks from several hundred feet above the river.

By late autumn the predominant colors range from golden aspen trees to rust-colored willows in the wetlands near the river. The valley is filled with warm tones but the river reflects our unusually blue sky on most days. This contrast in tonality is not usually what I'm looking for in a landscape photo. I would prefer to have all the tones in the scene either cool or warm but not mixed. As I was exploring this scene and trying to solve my tonality dilemma, it occurred to me that if we ever had a brilliant and colorful sunrise, the reflection in the river would be orange or red instead of blue. I filed this idea away in the back of my mind.

Several years later I walked out of my door to go to breakfast just before sunrise. There were clouds to the East that were starting to glow with red, sunrise, light. I remembered the river. Breakfast would have to wait a bit!

Heading toward Gothic, I searched for the best overlook but the light was changing quickly. I found this spot and set up to make some photos. As it turned out, the red reflection only lasted a few minutes. In a perfect world, I would have chosen a spot without the nearly-bare aspen trees in the foreground but there was no time. This image was my favorite from the opportunity that only allowed six photos. I'm still waiting for this situation to repeat. I love the idea but haven't gotten the "perfect" shot of "East River Red".


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Crested Butte, Colorado photographer, Dusty Demerson creates fine art photography displayed as prints and canvases and provides private photo tours in and around western Colorado.

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