How the Art Happens - East River Green

May 15, 2019  •  Leave a Comment

East River GreenEast River GreenThe East River meanders toward Crested Butte Mountain in western Colorado on a perfect spring morning.

East River Green

The East River drains snowmelt from the Raggeds and Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness areas northwest of Crested Butte, Colorado. While traveling between the historic mining town turned research facility of Gothic and its intersection with the Slate River below Crested Butte, it meanders through a broad valley like a snake. 

Photographers from all over the world have admired the views of the river as it snakes its way toward Gunnison. The vantage points, however, are few and far between. Dense forest and mountainous terrain leave only a few good views of the river below. For most of this route, travelers are a few hundred feet above the valley floor. 

That fact gave me an idea. For years I have imagined a photograph of the meandering East River leading eyes to the towering laccolith of Crested Butte Mountain. But there was a problem. None of the vantage points offered that point of view and it would be a treacherous, if not impossible, flight path for a small plane. So, for years the image of the lazy, winding river leading to the mountain I envisioned was just a dream.

But, technology came to the rescue. A few years ago the solution presented itself with the availability of flying cameras also known as drones. The flying camera was the perfect solution to this low-elevation aerial photograph in the middle of a deep valley.

To achieve "East River Green" I actually flew the route three times. The first time was about a month too early with patches of snow and mostly brown foliage. The second time spring winds made flying difficult and I could never find the right composition. The third time was the charm though. The camera placement ended up about 350' below from where I launched and nearly a half mile down-river. I was able to monitor the flight on my iPad to get the composition and elevation just right.

Once I get the photo I'm after I usually simply instruct the drone to "return to home" which I did this time. However, I was in for a surprise when a window popped up informing me that I didn't have enough battery power to get the drone back. Dang! I really was not looking forward to a mostly vertical hike with a slim chance of recovering my flying camera. Instead of panic, I decided to try and get my quadcopter as close as possible to my location. I flew up to about 50' above the launch elevation so I could clear the nearby trees and then straight back toward my spot. The controller was beeping "low battery" the whole way. But, I made it! Just barely. And, I got the shot, "East River Green".

If you would like to know more about what I have learned about using drones in landscape photography, here is a link to an article I wrote a while back. Using Drones in Landscape Photography



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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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