Photography: An afternoon trip to Estes Park


On my travels as an amateur photographer, my plan is to write about my experiences in learning about the craft. Living in Colorado affords me a lot of chances to take many different kinds of photos, and my photography articles are here to help me remember the good parts of what I do. I have a relatively new Canon T3i, which for me does a nice job.

One important note before I start talking about my afternoon trip to Estes Park. Our entire area (quite literally) was hit with massive flooding last September. I’ll address some actual damage at the end of my article, but I want to point out that Estes Park, and all of the foothills and mountain towns affected last September, need our support.

Estes Park, especially, is perfectly safe and ready for your tourism. It’s the opening way to Rocky Mountain National Park, and after last fall’s flooding it needs your help. In fact, here’s a photo from just yesterday, showing that Estes Park is ready for you. No remaining damage downtown here, and lots of shops open:


Also, that was just a very quick photo while we were driving, and not what I would call a great photo. It’s just to make the point that Estes Park is ready for you.

On to the photography, and the trip in general.

In another article, I’ll show off some photos of the gorgeous Big Thompson Canyon, which harbors the road to get from Loveland to Estes Park. With lots of construction at the moment, and a fairly busy road yesterday, I opted not to stop and take very many.

When you come out of the canyon and enter Estes Park, you’re greeted with the majesty of the Rocky Mountains (click on all of the photos for larger versions):


 After we walked around downtown Estes Park for awhile, mostly so that I could get a mocha, we ended up on the east side of the downtown area. On the top of an outcropping, there exists the ruins of an old stone cabin. I snapped a photo of that, since the blue sky hadn’t been taken over yet by the oncoming snow.


 In the same parking area, a tree nearby caught my eye. The nice thing with digital photography is that I can snap away, and just keep the ones I like. In this case, I was toying around with the aperture settings to try and get the right effect. This one is my favorite of those:


 Estes Park is also well known for the elk herds that wander about the town. We saw a couple when we were on the road out of town (to the north, not U.S. 34 back down Big Thompson Canyon), and then on the top of the next hill there was a small herd of elk.

They were not very far away at all, from 20′ to 80′, and they really didn’t care at all that were there taking photos. Especially since there was a large wooden fence between us, they didn’t seem to have any cares at all. So, I snapped a bunch of photos, and here are the ones that I thought turned out best.

I all of them, I liked that the camera captured the snow as it was falling. I thought it was a nice overall effect.


This second elk photo is not, in fact, the same photo cropped in. He just stood there, so I zoomed in with a different aperture and took a few closer shots. This was the best one of those, but it does in a way make it look like he never moved.


I was playing with the depth of field on this next one, and I liked how this one turned out. The other version, with a much clearer background, looked fine. But then I lost the idea that the elk was the centerpiece of the shot, so I went with this one.


The last of the elk shots, here, was actually one of the first shots as we pulled up in the car. He looked back at us, and I took the shot, thinking that they’d all wander away. But they didn’t, which is why the ones above worked out.


At the beginning of the article, I said I would come back and address the damage from last fall’s flooding. Going up U.S. 34 through Big Thompson Canyon, some of the damage is evident. But coming down through a different canyon, one that was hit even harder, and the damage is striking.

I didn’t, at the time, feel like taking a bunch of photos of the destruction. I may go back up in a few weeks and take some different photos of the incredible power of nature.

For now, I leave you with a single photo that defines much of what we saw. It’s of the debris piled up in a bend in the river, and is amazing all on its own. You can see too, the road that we are on is just packed dirt. That’s because seven miles of the paved road were completely wiped off the face of the earth.


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