Maroon Bells, Autumn Regalia (2016)

Colorado holds many of the United States’ most beautiful scenic landscapes.  Those around the small but upscale mountain town of Aspen are no exception, with imagery from this particular location being some of the most globally utilized for advertisement of American wilderness.  Being there for sunrise and sunset is key to not only the most mystifying lighting, as with most places, but also beating the crowds.  A win-win for seekers of inspirational solace as well as the photographically inclined.  The lighting of Blue Hour beforehand can’t be beat for bringing out even exposure on all elements of your image.  It makes colors pop in every corner.  This is certainly realized when standing along the edge of Maroon Lake, looking up at the Bells, and it’s only a short jaunt from the parking area to get there.

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Morning Golden Hour Alpenglow on the Maroon Bells

In many ways, Blue Hour makes the environment more surreal than when Golden Hour really ushers light to the land.  However, an hour can be spent in what seems like a few minutes just in watching the fire of alpenglow start at the mountaintops and wash its way down the slopes to the sheltering forests below.  It’s like watching fire dance, or water, even grains on the wind, just ripple and wave – a mesmerizing past time that has an easy way on the hearts of busy men and women.  And indeed, during sunrise at this place there are quite a few men and women just standing, watching, waiting, being fed soul food.  Especially when you are there for the peak weekend of fall colors.  But marvelously, for those who love finding their own spaces, about 50% of the crowds taper off when you go higher from here.

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Aspen Forest on the Way to Crater Lake

On the way to Crater Lake, 1.5 miles away, the color therapy wins you over.  These aspen forests are quintessential for Colorado, and the trail is fine enough to promote careless gawking.  I really don’t know how many pictures I took along the way, but it was just so, so very easy to do.

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Maroon Lake from Above

There is a break in the trees, facing Maroon Lake, some half mile or so up the trail.  This is the prize for those who stop to break and take a peek through it.

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Crater Lake Reflections

Much of the trail continues forested in this way, and easy going, but then there is a rocky section, and one shorter easy one, that leads directly to this.  The valley in view holds a trail that can be connected to others to make a loop around the Elk Mountains that one can do in 3 or 7 days if they so wish it.  I have done it in 4 at the height of summer, starting and ending in Crested Butte.  It was wonderful, and I can’t suggest it enough.

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Up and Up

This image was actually taken another half mile or more up the trail towards the nearby mountain passes.  I did not get to them, but rather took a break with friends after a near-complete separation from the crowds below (aside from these two horsemen on their journey).  It gets more serene the steeper the trail goes.

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A Sweet Return

This image was taken on my way back, and it serves to remind me to come back some time very soon.  But then, I’ve never been to the nearby and secretively renowned Capital Creek area…

*Brendan Bombaci holds the Creative Commons Copyrights to all images on this blog. See his Flickr portfolio @ to see exact licensures.


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