“Rock, Sheep Mountain & Trout Lake”

Rock, Sheep Mountain & Trout Lake, SW Colorado (c) Mike Utley

W39-1(S)—Rock, Sheep Mountain & Trout Lake, SW Colorado
Trout Lake is located about ten miles from the small tourist village of Telluride in southwest Colorado. Situated at nearly 10,000 feet elevation in the Lizard Head Pass area, it’s my second-favorite spot on the planet, just behind Heceta Head Lighthouse on the Oregon Coast. This mid-’90s autumn image was taken after most of the leaves had turned and fallen and a dusting of new snow blanketed the mountain. It was bitter cold when I made this image. My hands were frozen and my fingers were numb, making the operation of the camera difficult. I was hand-holding a rectangular two-stop soft-edged graduated neutral density filter in front of my 24mm f/2.8 wide-angle lens to hold back exposure on the snowy mountain to balance the scene (the filter mount didn’t work properly on wide-angle lenses, resulting in vignetting in the corners, hence the hand-held improvisation). I was shaking and trying not to cloud the lens with my breath. The tripod’s legs were in the water in order to get the rock where I wanted it in the frame. It took several minutes to finally get the shot, but when the slides came back a few days later, it was all worth it. This image is among my favorites. I wanted the essence of simplicity for this shot, a Spartan approach to evoke a sense of loneliness with just the basic elements of the rock, the water and the mountain. The varying shades of blue add to the austere nature of the scene. There is silence here, and contemplation, and a feeling of being part of the scene for me, not just someone behind the camera. (Canon gear, Fuji Velvia ISO 50)

37 thoughts on ““Rock, Sheep Mountain & Trout Lake”

    1. Thanks so much, Jane. It was very cold icing, indeed! But it was also a fun experience in a place I really love to be, and it’s only about an hour away from where I live. Your kind words are always appreciated. 🙂

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    1. Thanks a bunch! It was definitely worth it. I really love this place. It’s not famous for anything, although other photos of it can be googled. It’s just a sort of deeply personal place to me. As a kid, my family would go camping at Trout Lake every July 4th (at least for a few years). I remember waking up early to go fishing and seeing the trout jumping, and the same thing again in the late evenings when the day calmed down. The scent of lake water and forests is intoxicating. I don’t remember catching any fish, but that’s okay. No worries there! It’s just a special place for me. So glad you enjoyed this one. 🙂

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    1. Exactly! j An “undisturbed slumbering” is a magnificent way to put it. When I view this image, that’s what I see: nature in repose, slowing down and curling up for a rest. There’s peace and quite (despite the bitter cold) and a sense of everything being just the way it’s supposed to be. Glad to know you liked this image. Thanks so much for your warm comment. 🙂

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    1. Thanks, Mark. I appreciate your wonderful comments so much. I really value your opinion on all things that concern nature (your naturalist website is absolutely amazing and you do such important work). If I can draw attention to the importance of the natural world through my words and images, I feel as though I’ve accomplished something. My nature photographer hero was the late Galen Rowell, who was very vocal about protecting the wild places of the earth, and he used his photography as a means of sharing the beauty of those places to raise awareness of this noble cause. If people see beauty in my images and it causes them to have appreciation for nature, I feel like I’ve contributed to the movement, so to speak. 🙂

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  1. What a cool, calm and lonely space, and a gorgeous sight to behold altogether. This is a speaking photo, a wonderful pictorial representation of “solitude” and all that it encompasses. Oh marvelous! My plaudits to you for the efforts you made and risks you took in capturing such wonderful pics whose impacts on humanity will barely cease. 🤗

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    1. You’re too kind, Lamittan! Your words mean the world to me. I’m so glad my words and images speak to you in such a positive manner. I think my decision to start publishing my nature photos was a good one. It’s enabled me to share a deeply personal side of myself. All these images were sitting in the dark on my hard-drive all these years…stories without a listener, if you will. When my words run dry (as they have at the moment), all I have left are image to speak on my behalf. I’m fortunate that there are kind folks like yourself with whom I can share my world. Thanks for your ever-wonderful comments. 🙂

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      1. You’re most welcome, Mike. You made the best decision to start sharing these informative and inspiring pictures you took, my friend. It’s my happiness to always view and write my sincere comments about them. Keep doing this. In fact, if you’d add a little paypal donation button somewhere, I’d be glad to always drop my coins. I love what you do very much. 💖

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    1. Thanks, Jeff. So much of what I aimed for in my photography was a sort of silent tranquility, an imposing of order on a chaotic world. This image is pretty typical of what my goal was as it uses simple shapes and colors and eliminates clutter. I like the meditative aspect of that rock sitting in the water, as though it is contemplating the distant mountain. I always appreciate your kind words. 🙂

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    1. Thanks, Terveen. Ah, blue! I mean, even though it’s classified as a “cool” color and has connotations of sadness and despair, I find it very hopeful. What inspires gladness more than looking up at a clear blue sky? How about a comfy old pair of blue jeans? Blueberries? Beagles love ’em! 😀 This image certainly has a broad palette of blues. Glad you like this one despite the bitter cold of the scene. 🙂

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    1. Thanks, Rhyan. The simple color palette here really helps define the scene, that’s for sure. It sets the tone, and I find it very quieting and calming. (I’m glad the heater in my truck was working after I made this image!) 🙂

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    1. Thanks, Kirsten. It’s a gorgeous place but it does get cold at around 10,000 feet elevation. Summers are usually quite warm, and needless to say, the scents (fresh air, conifers, lake water) of this place are magical. If you ever find yourself in the Telluride area, drop by Trout Lake. It’s worth it. 🙂

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    1. Thanks, Cindy. I appreciate it. I love capturing reflections in water. It offers another perspective on things and encourages us to see the world in new ways. It’s sort of like nature’s counterpart to poetic metaphor. 🙂

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    1. Thank you. I liked the stark simplicity of this scene and the limited color palette. And boy, was it frigid that evening! It’s one of my favorite images from a beloved location. Lots of good memories associated with this one. 🙂

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      1. For me, this photo has, among other things, a very Asian touch. I don’t know to what extent you are aware of that yourself. But since you also write excellent haiku, I think that partly comes naturally. The things that we deal with mentally flow into our work as if by themselves.

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    2. My primary approach to nature photography seemed to be an almost desperate desire to impose order on a chaotic world. I sought to create images that reflected peace and tranquility, things I needed in my life but could only find through artistic pursuits (music–before I became deaf, photography and writing). I’m flattered that you find an Asian influence in this image. To me, that’s very high praise. I have such deep respect for Asian art and culture and I’ve seen that come through in my haiku and other poetry but had never consciously seen it in my photography. But we put who we are into our work, so it makes sense, and the quiet, contemplative aspect of so many of my images certainly reminds me of some Asian philosophies that espouse peace, stillness, silence. A dream of mine is to visit Japan and China and other Asian locales. What a thrilling experience that would be.

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