It's been awhile since I've been to Colorado...
I need to change that.
It's one of the most beautiful states I've been to, but that's to be expected since I'm a lover of landscape photography.
What's great about Colorado is that there is so much to see in such varied climates. You can photograph snow-capped mountains in the morning, have lunch in a quaint mining town, and then spend the afternoon in the desert taking photos of wonderful and bizarre formations that look more at home in New Mexico or Arizona.
Better still, Colorado's landscapes are vast, giving you plenty of opportunities to see the beauty of the state without having to fight for position with other photographers to get the shot you want, assuming you're visiting at the right time of year, of course.
If you're fond of creating landscape photos, let me give you a few tips for maximizing your experience while visiting the Centennial State.
Incorporate Human Touches
I know some landscape photography purists that balk at the idea of incorporating human elements into their photos.
For them, the term "landscape photography" has a strict interpretation that means only natural elements should be included in the photo.
I get where they're coming from, but I don't really agree with their point of view.
After all, the interaction between us and the environment can be a beautiful thing.
Besides, how many landscapes do you come across that haven't been touched or altered by humans in some way?
My theory is that landscape photographers should embrace the human-environment interaction in their photos.
Now, I'm probably not going to spend a lot of time taking photos of strip mines or logging camps - those might represent some of the more unsavory ways we interact with the environment.
Incorporating a road, a bridge, or a railroad into the shot, though, can make for an interesting photo that highlights the beauty of nature and the ability of humans to harness it.
In looking at the photos above of the railroad and the Royal Gorge Bridge, you can see the value of including these features in a landscape photo.
In the case of the railroad, the tracks and the train itself act as a leading line, taking our eye along the sheer cliffside and deeper into the shot. The pop of yellow and the smoke from the train adds additional visual appeal to the shot as well.
In the case of the bridge, we get a better sense of the sheer size of the Royal Gorge, given how tall and wide the bridge is.
In that regard, these manmade elements don't just add visual interest; they also help us understand the grandeur of the scene we're viewing by giving a better sense of scale to the shot.
So, despite what the purists say, don't automatically discount adding people or manmade objects in your landscape photos. It might just make those photos more interesting!
Find Unique Topography
Another interesting detail to look for when photographing Colorado landscapes - or any landscape, for that matter - is interesting topography.
Mountain peaks jutting toward the sky, rolling hills, canyons, rivers, and so forth are all worthy subjects for your lens when photographing Colorado.
But if you ask me, one of the most interesting areas to photograph is the Garden of the Gods.
Just one look at the images above and below should be enough to clue you into why this place is a landscape photographer's paradise.
The rock formations themselves are interesting enough as it is, with their tall, thin columns rising toward the sky that adds depth and dimension to the shot.
But add in the colors of a setting sun, the texture and shape of petrified trees, the colors of wildflowers or changing leaves, or a dusting of snow, and you have the makings for a photo that is certainly worthy of a spot on your living room wall.
No matter what the topography looks like, you'll need some of those elements - good lighting especially - along with the right gear and good ol' compositional and technical know-how to get the best shot.
But when you're working with such breathtaking landscape features, it sure makes your job a whole lot easier!
Go in Early Summer or Early Fall
No matter where your photography exploits take you in Colorado, a visit in the early summer or early fall is ideal for a number of reasons.
First of all, early summer and early fall will help you avoid the massive crowds of tourists that make their way to Colorado each summer. The difference in the crowds from early June and mid-July is staggering. The same goes for mid-July to late September.
Not only are these times great for missing the crowds but you can also catch some gorgeous scenes while you're at it.
Early summer means mountain vistas are exploding with wildflowers. Wildlife sightings are typically common in early summer as well as the mountain thaw isn't that far in the past, and the animals are still active feeding, mating, and migrating.
Early fall has its own beautiful surprises, namely, the fall colors as the leaves start to change. The explosion of yellow, orange, and red leaves throughout the Rockies is one of the most breathtaking sights you'll see in Colorado!
So, if possible, avoid setting out on your journey in the middle of the summer. Instead, plan your Colorado Photography adventure for early summer or early fall. And while you're at it, check out the Special Interest Tours Rockies By Rail trip that's offered at those exact same times and see the wonder of Colorado's landscapes by steam rail.
Just imagine riding an open-air car through the Colorado Rockies, your camera in hand, at the ready to photograph scenes like those pictured above.
Talk about a vacation! You'll see Colorado like you've never seen it before.
Special Interest Tours does it right with a full-scale charter train trip that takes you along the Cumbres-Toltec line, the Georgetown Loop, and the Durango-Silverton line.
From these beautiful trains, you'll see the best Colorado has to offer, including the Rio Grande National Forest, the Royal Gorge, Pike's Peak, the Garden of the Gods, and your choice of spending the day in the historic town of Durango or Mesa Verde National Park. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.
Throw in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to ride some of the most beautiful rail lines in the country, a chance to rub elbows with other train and photography enthusiasts, and hotel accommodations, two meals a day, and various private tours, and you've got the makings for a memorable trip through the Colorado Rockies.
Special Interest Tours is offering this trip twice this year: May 30-June 7 and September 24-October 2, 2017. Visit their website for additional details so you can start planning your Colorado landscape adventure today!