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Ruby Basin Sunset II

Ruby Basin Sunset II, Weminuche Wilderness, Colorado

Ruby Basin Sunset II, Weminuche Wilderness, Colorado

I first became aware of Ruby Basin while studying maps of the Needle Mountains near Durango. The peaks surrounding the basin looked spectacular, judging by the tight contours, and I knew from the map that sunset light would come flooding into the valley during the peak of flower season. There was only one problem: no trail led into the basin, and the terrain looked extremely rugged. Then I met some mountaineers elsewhere in the Needle Mountains, who told me that an extremely rough, hard-to-follow route led into the basin. I spent three nights in the basin during my first trip, in 2004, shooting with a 4x5 field camera. My photos were decent, but I felt that still better images would be possible during a repeat visit. For a landscape photographer, the greatest luxury is time: time to thoroughly explore an area, to wait out bad weather, and to try repeatedly for the spectacular sunrise and sunset light that yields unique images. In 2005 I spent another four nights in Ruby Basin, again shooting with my 4x5. My favorite composition from that trip proved to be this view looking down the valley at Ruby Lake and the Twilight Peaks. On the night I shot it, however, smoke from a wildfire near Mesa Verde created hazy skies that dulled the beauty of the sunset light.

In 2008 I retired my 4x5 and began shooting with high-end Canon DSLRs, primarily because digital capture gave me a greatly enhanced ability to deal effectively with high-contrast scenes such as this one. For ten years I vowed to return to Ruby Basin to take advantage of my new digital tools. Finally, in the summer of 2015, I spent seven days trekking through the heart of the Needle Mountains and Grenadier Range, including one night in Ruby Basin. I relocated the favorite location I had shot 10 years earlier and made the image you see here, this time under clear skies.

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