Aspen

The Road to Cedar Breaks

The Road to Cedar Breaks

The view along UT 14 as it winds its way up from Cedar City to Cedar Breaks National Monument

Since I visit the western US to shoot mostly during the fall, I’ve had the opportunity to see the aspens at peak fall color on several occasions. It’s always a magnificent experience. While planning this trip to Nevada, Utah, and Arizona, I hoped that our schedule, elevation, and an aspen forest would intersect at some point. While at Great Basin National Park, the aspen forest had already turned and shed its leaves. Even so, the park was fun to visit and beautiful.

But, as we headed southeast toward Cedar City, I hoped that a beautiful aspen forest at the peak of fall color would be visible along the way. About thirty minutes out from Cedar City I began to see the mountains rising in the distance. I *thought* I could see pops of yellow on the mountainsides but I convinced myself that it was simply the way the sun was hitting the mountains. As we got closer, though, it became obvious that the large patches of yellow and orange that we could see were actually huge aspen groves. Needless to say, I got pretty excited.

I became even more excited once we dropped off our bags and headed up the mountain from Cedar City to Cedar Breaks National Monument. While on prior trips to southern Utah I had heard of Cedar Breaks and its beauty but I had never visited. So, I was pretty stoked to pay it a visit. What I hadn’t anticipated was the amazing beauty of the road up the mountain. It was one of those drives where we were stopping at least once a mile, and sometimes more often, just to gape at the landscape. I had gone from no leaves on the aspen trees to grove after grove at the peak of their fall beauty. And, I hadn’t even made it to the main attraction yet!

This shot was taken during one of those stops. There was a county park where we parked the car and moved up and down the road for a while. I loved the way that he fence and the road led my eye into the mass of the aspen-covered mountain we had just driven past. The colors were amazing and there were even a few clouds in the sky to break up the otherwise perfect blue sky overhead. The scenery was so beautiful that we utterly enjoyed two or three trips up and down the mountain pass just so we could soak it all in. I hope this image conveys some sense of the beauty of the scene that we experienced.

First Light on Maroon Bells

First light on Maroon Bells

The first sunlight reaches Maroon Bells near the peak of the fall aspen color

Occasionally I will be editing images from a recent shoot and will be reminded of earlier images I have captured. I don’t know what the trigger is, but an image from a few months or years ago will emerge from my memory and I want to revisit it. Sometimes advances in software make me realize that I could have done a better job editing an image. In other instances, I will experiment with black and white or some other process on an older favorite image.

One great aspect of shooting RAW files as opposed to .jpg is that all of the original image data remains captured in the RAW file. As new versions of Lightroom, Aperture, Photoshop, or whatever the current favored editing software may be, emerge, reprocessing old images can yield some heretofore unseen details. Shooting in RAW is virtually equivalent to having a digital negative just as I used to have a film negative when shooting print or slide film.

For whatever reason, I recalled an image that I had taken in Colorado in the fall five years ago. The image is a classic one, the Maroon Bells near Aspen. Each fall hundreds of photographers gather there to shoot the Maroon Bells as reflected in Maroon Lake with the vibrant aspens on the surrounding mountainsides. I was there on a glorious fall morning along with several dozen other intrepid photographers at dawn. Even though there wasn’t a particularly beautiful sunrise as I had hoped, the clear sky allowed the sun to paint the peak of the Bells with the soft morning light at dawn.

When I first processed this image, I really didn’t do a great job. Consequently, I never developed a print or posted a blog about it. When I revisited it this week, the software and my technique had improved enough to make a passable image. Fortunately, I technically executed the shot well (shot in RAW, on a tripod, used a cable release, etc.). I wish I had the pixel count of the D800 when I took the image, but the D300 still captures a lot of data and yielded great results. I hope you enjoy the image as well.