Longs Peak from Bear Lake in Autumn
Longs Peak from Bear Lake in Autumn, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Each September in Colorado, as the days cool and shorten, the leaves of the aspen trees begin to turn from green to gold. In some years, steady rain corrupts the transformation, turning the leaves a muddy yellow-brown that's blotched with black fungus, as if someone had sprinkled the leaves with ink. In other years, powerful early snowstorms roar through the mountains, stripping the trees bare while the leaves are still half-green. Even when the weather remains clear, a severe frost can turn golden leaves to brown in a single night. But in some very fortunate years, years that are dry and calm, the leaves have a chance to complete their transformation to shimmering gold.
The most spectacular displays are the most fleeting ones, however. By the time the leaves are at their peak, they are also at their most fragile, and the slightest breeze can snap the brittle stems and send the leaves whirling to the ground. The autumn of 1994 was the best year for fall colors I've ever seen in Rocky Mountain National Park. On a perfect Indian summer morning, I shot this view of Longs Peak, Glacier Gorge and Bear Lake with a Zone VI 4x5 field camera and Kodak Pro 100 film.