Owl Creek Pass, Colorado 2011
It rained hard and non-stop on my drive from Gunnison west toward Cimarron, Colorado. After a morning of photography on beautiful Ohio Pass under a blue sky decorated with big puffy clouds, it looked like my afternoon and evening plans for images on Owl Creek Pass would be washed out. I debated whether to hole up in a motel in Cimarron for the day to wait for the storm to blow over and start early in the morning. But the thought of being cooped up in a motel with my camera bag made me cringe. I had only a few days left in Colorado before returning home to Oregon, so I decided to take Owl Creek Pass and shoot when and if the rain let up a bit, hoping my camera wouldn't get too wet. I had no idea what the road conditions would be as a result of the heavy rains. These were unpaved national forest service roads that sometimes got slick and rutted from a hard rain. At the time, I didn't realize how lucky I was going to be. The rain did let up at times, and the storm brought a beautiful and mysterious blanket of mist onto the Cimarron Range bordering the road. The thick cloud cover made it possible to shoot the landscape filled with colorful aspens and dark evergreens contrasted against a white mist hovering on the summit spires of beautiful mountain peaks in the Uncompahgre National Forest. If it had been a bright sunshiny day, no way my camera could have caught the large contrast between highlights and shadows. For my photography, the storm was a blessing in disguise. I couldn't have asked for better conditions. The rain saturated the colors in the aspens, and I pretty much had the region to myself. I saw only a couple of other cars and a motorcycle rider during this 41-mile drive. It was quiet, peaceful and magical. It was probably the best shooting experience of my 10-day journey to Colorado to catch aspens at the peak of autumn color. On the steep descent from Owl Creek Pass down to Ridgway and the Dallas Divide, my next and final destination, I did have some white knuckle moments on a rain-slick unpaved road with hairpin turns and no guardrails. A little danger made the photos I had in the bag seem all that much sweeter.
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