How the Art Happens - Shelter From the Storm

April 17, 2019  •  Leave a Comment

Shelter From the StormShelter From the StormAn iconic Gunnison County barn stands against the elements of a snowy January in Colorado. This barn collapsed a few days after this image was captured.

Shelter From the Storm

I loved this old barn. I drove past it several times each week, in every season, at every time of day, in every kind of weather, in every kind of light. I have probably photographed it a hundred times.

On this particular January morning a few years ago, I awoke to a fresh frosting of snow and hoar frost on every post, branch, wire, and stationary object. I was trying to decide the morning's photo subject while enjoying my breakfast. The hoar frost disappears immediately when the sun hits it so I knew my time was limited. There was something else about that morning though. Because of the frost, almost everything it covered had lost its color. Now, that was cool (literally)!

I suddenly remembered this old barn between Crested Butte and Gunnison. The lines of the trees on the slopes above the barn would bring your eyes straight to the barn. The only color in the picture would be the warm, brown timbers of the old logs and planks used to build the barn. The fresh snow would help clean up anything on the ground creating a scene with minimal distractions from the warmth of my subject. The only challenge would be to get close enough to get the highway, fence, and ditch out of the scene.

I jumped in the truck and headed down the valley to the barn. The sky was still grey and overcast which really helps soften the view and eliminate distracting shadows. Plus, cloudy landscapes have a different mood to them than sunny days. I don't think this photograph would work at all on a sunny morning. It would have a completely different feel.

I photographed the barn from several angles and compositions. My short telephoto lens was the perfect solution to eliminating the fence and foreground distractions. It also helped compress the space between the barn and the angled trees above. The "frosting" was perfect, creating a scene reminiscent of hand-tinted photos from the turn of the century.  The wooden barn was simply glowing!

I knew I would be happy with the images captured that morning even though I was not sure which composition would be the strongest. What I did not know was that "Snowmageddon" was going to begin later that morning, bringing almost 6 feet of wet, heavy snow in the next several days. After weathering nearly 100 years of Rocky Mountain weather the ridge post cracked under the weight of new snow and the barn came down just a few days later.

As it turned out "Shelter From the Storm" just wasn't enough shelter after all. There is a sadness that fills the valley when iconic structures disappear.


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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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