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Columbine and Dallas Peak

Columbine and Dallas Peak, Mt. Sneffels Wilderness, Colorado

Columbine and Dallas Peak, Mt. Sneffels Wilderness, Colorado

The winter of 2018-19 brought exceptionally heavy snowfalls to the San Juan Mountains in southwest Colorado. Huge avalanches ran on avalanche paths that hadn’t seen such massive slides in a hundred years, snapping off mature trees and piling them up at the base of the slide path like a giant’s game of pickup sticks. When the snow finally melted about two weeks later than average, the wildflowers bloomed profusely. In early August I hiked to the lower Blue Lake in the Mt. Sneffels Wilderness, set up camp, and spent the next four days photographing the bloom. The wildflowers were so plentiful that on the fourth day I hiked back to my truck, picked up another two days of food and fuel, hiked back to my campsite, and spent two more days trying to capitalize on all the photographic opportunities in the area.

The Blue Lake where I camped is the lowest of three lakes in a chain. For my first sunrise shoot I hiked to the middle Blue Lake, which had a rich field of columbine along its eastern shore. The morning proved to be completely clear. I shot a variety of compositions even though the images lacked the clouds that would have added life to the sky. For my second sunrise shoot, I returned to the middle Blue Lake, but a strong wind made it difficult to capture sharp flowers, and the sky was once again clear. The sky was clear yet again when I returned to the middle Blue Lake before sunrise on my third morning. Rather than shoot the same scene under the same clear skies that I’d already shot twice before, I made a last-minute decision to sprint up the Blue Lakes Pass trail for another 700 vertical feet to a group of columbine I’d scouted the previous day. Pushing my aerobic capacity to its limit, I arrived only minutes before sunrise and set up in haste. I made this image just as a few clouds drifted into the frame and sunrise light kissed the summit of 13,815-foot Dallas Peak.

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