How the Art Happens - Silverton, Colorado

June 12, 2019  •  Leave a Comment

Silverton ColoradoSilverton ColoradoAnsel Adams inspired this image of architectural forms from Silverton, Colorado. My composition is a little tighter to eliminate some new technology like a satellite dish.

Silverton, Colorado

Silverton, Colorado is a former mining town located high in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. Many of the buildings in the town date back to the early mining days over 100 years ago. Like many of Colorado's old mining towns, Silverton's current claim to fame is tourism. Being the destination of the Durango to Silverton railroad keeps it hopping with visitors. Silverton is also famous for being on the National Register of Historic Places.

In 1951 Ansel Adams visited Silverton and created a few images. His most well-known is a photograph of this church. The forms of the roofs and the contrast of the white church and dark surrounding buildings always intrigued me. Artistically, our eyes are usually drawn to areas of higher contrast and lighter tones generally dominate our attention. Naturally, my eye goes to the church.

I visited Silverton a few years ago and was captivated by the old wooden buildings and ghost-town feel once I got off of the main street. I drove or walked every street in Silverton searching for images. I didn't have much luck. Newer cars in driveways, satellite dishes, and a host of new-fangled additions and appliances really took away from the old mining town vibe I was trying to capture. Then, I remembered the Ansel Adams photo. 

The church is easy to find with the steeple being visible from just about anywhere in town. So, I headed toward the church. It was still there and seemingly freshly painted. Perfect! It took a bit of work but I was able to find the exact location that Ansel made his composition. I loved the picket fence but, unfortunately, new neighbors had used it to mount a huge satellite dish. I had to do something a little different. I ended up choosing a much longer, telephoto lens, moved a block away, and created a much tighter composition focusing on the front of the church. The telephoto lens helps compress the apparent distance between foreground, subject, and background. I really liked the lines of the surrounding roofs and the contrast with the church. Moving that extra block also provided a higher point of view and let me eliminate the street. The wood smoke from surrounding homes added to the atmosphere behind the church. It also helped set the mood for the photographer who loves the smell of a campfire.

This photograph was originally created in color. Color, in my opinion, sometimes detracts from my composition and doesn't always support the theme of a photograph. "Silverton, Colorado" definitely works better in the mild sepia-toned black and white on warm toned paper.

I think our two images tell different stories of the same subject. Here is the Ansel Adams 1951 image:

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This is one of those images I prefer on paper. Canvas, metal and acrylic just, like the color, seem to compete with the emotion of the subject matter. You can see my matted and framed version of "Silverton, Colorado" here. 






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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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