Terra Galleria Photography

Looking for fall colors in unexpected places

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During the last two weeks of September, many photographers travel to Colorado to catch the fall foliage the state is deservedly known for. They congregate mostly in places such as the San Juan Mountains or Rocky Mountains National Park. I was in Colorado too, however I was looking in other places, part of my quest to photograph each of the National Parks in different seasons.

On the canyon rim of Black Canyon of the Gunnison, color is mostly provided by scrub and gambal oak, both low growing shrubs. All the trees visible on the rim are conifers, however looking down the canyon revealed a few deciduous trees on the slopes and along the river which formed dots of color. As it dropped in elevation, there was more dense color along the seldom visited East Portal road than anywhere else in the park, including a few sizeable clusters of aspen.

The Great Sand Dunes themselves are devoid of trees. One of the factors that make those dunes unique is the presence of a creek at their foot. Medano Creek is dry in the fall, but its flow in the spring and summer is enough to sustain a riparian environment with cottonwoods that turn golden in late September.

Mesa Verde wasn’t a place I expected to find fall color. I remembered that due to high elevation, the ruins which form the main attraction of the park are surrounded by conifers. However the mesas and gently slopping canyons at lower elevations, from the park entrance to Far View, are covered with shrubs. They unexpectedly turned the whole landscape crimson towards the end of September, almost like Alaska or New England hillsides.

The third objective of my September trip was to create some seasonal images (first was night photography, second was further explorations of Canyonlands). I found it satisfying to make my own discoveries rather than photographing vast expenses of color in places which are well known for them.

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