“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)

“Grand Tetons & Snake River at Sunrise”

Grand Tetons & Snake River at Sunrise, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming (c) Mike Utley

In August 1996, I took a trip up north to see my buddy Jeff in Montana. During that trip, I visited several national parks and monuments in Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota, including Glacier, Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, Mount Rushmore National Memorial, and Devils Tower National Monument. On my way home, I spent two nights at Schwabacher Landing in Grand Teton National Park sleeping upright behind the steering wheel of my little truck in bear country (no tents allowed) and woke up both mornings to this very sight. Shortly after making this image, a bald eagle flew lazily across the sky, then three moose decided to stand right smack in the middle of the river for about an hour, watching me. Later that day at another Grand Teton location I saw a black bear. It was incredible. Sometimes nature can be wonderfully generous. (Canon gear, Fuji Velvia ISO 50)

“Sheep Mountain & Wild Flowers”

Sheep Mountain & Wild Flowers, near Trout Lake, SW Colorado (c) Mike Utley

M10-1(S)—Sheep Mountain & Wild Flowers, near Trout Lake, SW Colorado
Sheep Mountain is located near Trout Lake, about ten miles from the small tourist town of Telluride in southwest Colorado. This image was made a couple of miles from the lake one summer evening. Due to the contrast in lighting between the sunlit mountain and the open shade of the meadow and distant forest, a soft-edged two-stop graduated neutral density filter was used to balance the exposure of the scene. This image was made before digital photography became mainstream, so all technical effects had to be made in-camera at the time of exposure without having any way to review the final image until the slides arrived in the mail later. Digital photography makes exposure-balancing effects such as this much easier with post-processing tools such as HDR (High Dynamic Range), which can balance the lighting in a scene by combining multiple exposures of the same subject. When this image was made in 1995, photographers had to know how to do all the tricks in-camera before pressing the shutter button. (Canon gear, Fuji Velvia ISO 50)

“Autumn Colors & Early Snow”

Autumn Colors & Early Snow, near Groundhog Reservoir, SW Colorado (c) Mike Utley

FC4-1(S)—Autumn Colors & Early Snow, near Groundhog Reservoir, SW Colorado. Groundhog Reservoir is one of my favorite locations. You can achieve perfect mirror-image reflections of the Lone Cone on its surface at times. Most people go there to fish, hunt or camp, but I always went there to work on photography. The roads are not maintained in the winter months, so it’s only accessible during the summer and fall. This image was made on the way to the reservoir and gives a good idea of what it’s like in my general area. (Canon gear, Fuji Velvia ISO 50)