Daybreak on Wilkerson Pass

| October 24, 2010
Daybreak on Wilkerson Pass, Colorado

Daybreak on Wilkerson Pass, Colorado

The aspens are spent. It’s a stark reminder that snow is just around the corner. I really cherish fall in Colorado but it is coming to an end. The crisp fall air will slowly give way to cold but sunny and sometimes snowy days with the high drama of a few blizzards thrown in for good measure.

Anticipating that our fair fall days were numbered, I woke up at 4:30am this morning to go on a photo expedition with my friend Chris. Our goal was to capture a few last shots of the season. The spot you see in today’s photo is atop Wilkerson Pass, which is about an hour and a half from my home in Monument. The elevation at Wilkerson Pass is about 9500 feet and it marks the eastern boundary of South Park, which is a 1000 square mile area of grasslands bordered by snowcapped mountain ranges.

We arrived at the Pass at about 6:30am while it was still was still dark. It was pretty chilly as we walked around to guess where the best photo opportunities would be as the sun rose. It’s actually pretty tough to try and figure out where to set up when you have never experienced daybreak at a location. At the end of our walk, I had a good feeling that the aspen grove above would make for interesting subject matter, especially as the sun rose and bathed the ground and reflective aspen bark with warm sunlight. Although it would have been nice to have some bright yellow leaves on the branches, I think they are pretty expressive all by themselves silhouetted against the morning sky.

The only practical way to get a shot directly into the sun is with multiple exposures. Even today’s most modern cameras would have a hard time capturing the full dynamic range of this scene. I used three exposures for this photo and assembled them in Photomatix Pro and Photoshop. The process is a bit complicated to explain in writing so I am planning to do a tutorial soon that will show you how I put this shot together.

Below is another shot I took at South Park City. The “City” is an open air museum that displays a reconstructed historic mining town. Unfortunately the museum was closed for the season but we could see over the fence to catch a glimpse of the structures. It turned out to be a good opportunity to try out my new 100 to 400mm Canon lens. The wagon you see as the subject of the photo was a ways down the street. I zoomed all the way and ended up getting a decent shot. The primary reason I bought the lens was to shoot things that are hard to get to. It will also come in very handy when I want to shoot candids of people from a distance. Thanks for looking and I hope you all have a great week!

An Old Wagon at South Park City, Colorado

An Old Wagon at South Park City, Colorado

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Category: Colorado, Photography

Comments (7)

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  1. nancy says:

    Wow, you certainly nailed this sunrise. Love the beautiful large tree on the right.

  2. Jean Nelson says:

    I remember getting those great ‘starbursts’ on transparencies (slides). Now, as you say, digital photos often have to be manipulated to get what film gave us. No matter how you achieved it, your sunrise image is spectacular. I like the birch you positioned in the foreground – nice composition.

  3. Lee says:

    Thanks ladies. I love the texture and battle scars on the trees. It gives them great character and the scars provide insight into the tree’s history and will to perservere.

    Hi Jean. The star is actually directly from the captured image. I have found that the quality of the lens makes a big difference on how defined the star looks and how many points it has. To get the effect, I did have to under expose that area so it did not completely blow out and lose the definition.

  4. Nancie says:

    Stunning. A gorgeous sunset!

  5. You did a really good job with this Lee. It’s glossy and colorful. As Mr. Schmid would say, worthy of your signature!

  6. Lee says:

    Thank you Nancie and Martyn!

  7. Breathtaking, that sunrise. As wonderful and advanced as our camera is, you still have to know how to use your equipment. So, much praise goes to you.