How the Art Happens - Kaleidoscope Gulch

October 26, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Kaleidoscope Gulch

Kalaidescope GulchKaleidoscope GulchBrightly colored aspen leaves explode as a spot of sunlight filters through the clouds near Crested Butte, Colorado.

Some mornings I look out the window and wonder if it's going to be worth getting out of bed. It was just after the peak of fall colors around Crested Butte. I was happy with my results capturing the colors of autumn for the season. I didn't feel like I had anything else to accomplish this fall, picture-wise. The sky was grey and socked-in. The landscape was mostly brown.

As I headed home after breakfast at Paradise Cafe there were little holes in the cloud cover starting to form. Spots of sunlight were beginning to dance across the landscape. Knowing it was probably a fool's errand, I decided to get out and see what I could see with little expectations. I remembered this particular drainage off Whiterock Mountain from a few days earlier and decided to check it out. The colors were perfect but in the deep shade of the ravine and with the subdued light from the clouds there was no "pop" to the scene. Since my expectations were already low, I decided to set up and hope for the best.

I pulled out the "bomber" Really Right Stuff tripod, the Tamron 150 - 600 mm telephoto, and the remote. The scene I wanted to capture was at least 1/2 mile away and I needed all the stability I could muster to keep the stark white aspen trees as sharp as possible.

Once I got set up, it became a waiting game. Watching spots of sunlight move across the valley while they morphed and disappeared without warning was pretty frustrating. A few spots of light got close to my subject just before vanishing. It was a long wait!

I made 16 photos leading up to this one before getting the light and composition that I wanted. It took about 30 minutes of watching and waiting but, I think the results were worth the wait. I used an Ansel Adams technique of vignetting the corners of the scene to keep the viewer's eyes within the frame of the photo and applied just a little bit of dodging and burning to even out the contrast on the aspens. I hope you like "Kaleidoscope Gulch". It's one of my favorites from this fall which is curious since I tend to shy away from high contrast scenes. I like the color and brightness contrasts of this scene as well as the diagonal composition which adds some excitement. I'm also drawn to the variety of bright colors against the darker browns of the landscape. What I like is a bit of a mystery. Even to me sometimes!


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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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