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Wildflowers above Blue Lake

Wildflowers above Blue Lake, Mt. Sneffels Wilderness, Colorado

Wildflowers above Blue Lake, Mt. Sneffels Wilderness, Colorado

I'm a map junkie. I spend hours studying 7.5 minute USGS topographic maps the way others pour over a good novel. As a specialist in Colorado landscape photography, I'm drawn to the state's most jagged peaks, and so for years I studied the maps of the Sneffels Range. The peaks were obviously dramatic, and I visited many times in the fall to photograph the large, colorful aspen groves at their foot. To my way of thinking, however, they didn't provide obvious potential in terms of wildflower photography in July. The chain of peaks runs basically east-west, but is slightly bow-shaped, with the concave side of the bow facing due north. The three Blue Lakes are nestled into the concave side of the bow. That means none of the peaks really get sunrise or sunset light when viewed from any of the lakes; adjacent peaks shadow those nearby. So although I've been specializing in Colorado wilderness landscapes since 1993, I didn't get around to visiting Blue Lakes until the summer of 2011.

What a delightful surprise! Rich fields of wildflowers surrounded the lakes and crept up the adjacent hillsides. As my map study had showed, only the very tips of the peaks got sunrise or sunset light, but the sheer beauty of the area easily made up for that drawback. I photographed this lush meadow of lupine, paintbrush, Parry's clover and alpine sunflowers along the trail between the first and second Blue Lakes with texturing light on Dallas Peak and soft, even lighting on the flowers. Although I spent nearly three days in the area in 2011, I felt I was nowhere close to exhausting the region's potential. I will certainly return next year.

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