“Autumn Colors & Cirrus Clouds”

Autumn Colors & Cirrus Clouds, near Dunton, SW Colorado (c) Mike Utley

In October 1997, a coworker at the camera store where I was employed invited me to accompany him for a day of fall colors photography in southwest Colorado. We headed out early and made our way to the off-the-beaten-path area near Dunton, a tiny unincorporated hamlet which sits at about 8,600 feet elevation near the West Fork of the Dolores River in the San Juan Mountains. My friend Robert, an accomplished photographer and former hang-glider pilot, knew the area like the back of his hand, having hiked, fly-fished and photographed there for many years. I’d been through Dunton as a kid but didn’t recall much of it. On this morning, bleary-eyed and exhausted from no sleep the night before (a pox on my insomnia), it was all I could do to keep my eyes open as we navigated the dirt roads in his white Isuzu Trooper. Robert was talkative and I was hard-of-hearing, so the conversation was one-sided. The morning, however, was brilliant, warm with a cobalt-blue sky and a suggestion of a breeze. Colorado is famous for its yellow aspens in the fall, and after a time we found a pleasant spot to stop and hike. And as exhausted as I was, I ended up with a handful of decent images, including this one of a group of aspens on a slanting hillside. I woke up in a hurry when I saw this scene. The contrast of the yellow and pale green leaves and dark blue sky, accentuated by the horsetail cirrus clouds and the neutral-toned grasses, was stunning. I used a polarizer filter to eliminate glare on the leaves, which highlighted the clouds and darkened the sky a bit. The colors popped with an intensity only autumn foliage in Colorado can summon. I made a few other images that morning, but this one stands out to me. The clouds, the contrasting yellows and blues, and the diagonal slope of the hillside all came together to create one of my favorite fall foliage images. (Canon gear, Fuji Velvia ISO 50)

50 thoughts on ““Autumn Colors & Cirrus Clouds”

  1. What a beautiful site to behold! The aspens look like maidens lining up the hill in beautiful robes ready to meet some unseen prince descending 🀴. Oh I love this. Your taste for good photography is unmatched, top notch indeed. Receive my plaudits for this gorgeous heartlifting photograph.

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    1. Thank you much, Lamittan. Ah, fair maidens, all in a row! (I wish they were waiting for me!) You always have a brilliant analogy on hand to describe my images.. Thanks for the kind words of support. πŸ™‚

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    1. Many thanks. Autumn colors burn brilliantly here, albeit all too briefly. We don’t have the diverse and expansive color palette of, say, the New England states here (due to fewer hardwood trees), but our yellow aspens and orange cottonwoods aren’t too shabby. Glad you found this to your liking. πŸ™‚

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    1. Thanks, Jeff. You always spoil me with your kind comments. I’ll bet your area has been a veritable explosion of colors this autumn. I recall driving through Corvallis many times on my way to the coast when I lived in Salem, and I was blown away by the variety of colors of all the hardwood trees. Seeing fire maples for the firs time up there was quite an experience. They just glowed with such intensity. Glad you liked this image. Much appreciated. πŸ™‚

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    1. Thank you kindly, Joni. I don’t really consider myself an autumn person, but I have to confess that the dramatic hues of changing foliage can be breathtaking. I’m happy to know you found this image pleasing. πŸ™‚

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    1. Thanks, Xenia. That day certainly was enjoyable despite my lack of sleep. Hiking around in the mountains in the fall is a splendid experience. The forests are magical this time of year, as I’m sure you know. πŸ™‚ Thanks for your kind comment. Much appreciated. πŸ™‚

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    1. Thanks, Daphny. It’s been a while since I posted any photos (or anything at all, really), but I wanted to get this image posted while it’s still autumn. Also, I can’t seem to post an image without including an accompanying anecdote (so many memories attached to all my images). I’m glad you enjoy the stories that go along with the photos. Thank you kindly for your always wonderful and positive comments. πŸ™‚

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    1. Thanks so much, Saima. Nature “remains the cure” when I’m feeling down (to paraphrase a line from Eric Carmen’s epic 1975 song “All By Myself”). When I look at my old nature images, I see a world filled with beauty and hope and goodness. I wish everyone could see what I see when I look at nature. I think the world would be a much better place if people could just stop and look and listen and experience the trees, flowers, mountains, streams, oceans and wildlife. It gives us much needed perspective as to what our place on this planet is really supposed to be, and that is to coexist with, and not dominate, the natural world. I’m so glad you found this image appealing. Many thanks, my friend! πŸ™‚

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  2. Ahh, a perfect fall image. The aspens look so rich and pop against the cobalt blue sky. Stunning shot.
    I always enjoy the backstories with your photos. Your descriptions are so vivid it’s like I was there on the hike too. Thanks for sharing Mike. πŸ‚πŸ€—

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    1. Thanks, Kirsten. I just mentioned to Daphny above that I can’t seem post an image without a story. I must confess, I love writing the anecdotes that accompany the images. These old photos mean so much to me, and I want to share that joy with those who view and read these posts. I have a lot of fun with them, and I’ve missed it over the past three months of inactivity on my blog. I’m so glad to know you enjoy the tales that describe these photos. These images represent happy moments in my otherwise melancholy life, and sharing them is not only fun, it’s therapeutic. And who doesn’t like to share good times with friends, amirite? πŸ™‚ I always appreciate your support. Thanks a bunch, my friend! πŸ™‚

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    1. Thank you much, Diana! And thanks for starting my morning with a smile as well. The aspens send you a hearty hello! πŸ˜€ I’m glad this image brought back good memories of your Colorado hikes. One thing that doesn’t come across in the photo is the magnificent aroma of aspen bark. It’s such a heady scent, and a good lungful or two is said to increase one’s lifespan by fifty years! (According to me, and I’m just riffing, you know… πŸ˜€ ) Anyway, thanks for the kind words. I appreciate it. πŸ™‚

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  3. The trees appear to be posing, all in line with their finest leaves and glorious stances. Who can resist a blue sky like that and those glowing clouds. The brownish hue at the bottom evens out the brightness towards the top. If you were sleepy and could manage this, then I just have to say – Mike, you’re a genius! Love your photography. What a natural. πŸ™‚

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    1. Many thanks, my friend! It was surreal day, for sure, with being so fatigued and feeling detached from everything due to lack of sleep. Stumbling upon this scene made it worth all the trouble. You’re always so kind with your appraisals, and I truly appreciate it. Glad you liked this one, Terveen. πŸ™‚

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