Capturing autumn’s glow |

Capturing autumn’s glow

Caramie Schnell
Vail CO Colorado
Rod Hanna | Special to the Daily"Seasons of Gold" is available for sale at The Bookworm of Edwards and at, where a page-by-page preview of the book can also be seen.

Photographers can be a competitive lot, there’s no doubt. But nature photographer Rod Hanna didn’t know quite how cutthroat it could be until he showed up at Maroon Lake the last week of September a few years ago, hoping to capture the reflection of Maroon Bells in the lake.

“With fresh snow the day before and a forecast for clearning skies, I got there at 6 a.m., in total darkness, only to find about 50 photographers and tripods already set up along the edge of the lake,” Hanna said.

He finally scored a spot on the crowded shore and chatted up some of the photogs he knew while he waited.

“Problem was, there was a breeze on the lake which resulted in no reflection,” Hanna remembered. “So, after a couple of hours, most left to go elsewhere or, as I did, worked on other kinds of images in the area. After a while, I turned around from about 100 yards away and the lake was like glass. Maybe 10 photographers were left to get the (photo). It’s the lesson of patience.”

With the annual changing of the leaves upon us, Hanna shared his tips to capture this autumn glory in beautiful photographs, patience being one of them. Hanna, a Steamboat Springs resident and professional photographer for more than 40 years, published his second book on Western Colorado titled “Colorado’s Seasons of Gold” in 2010. For six years, he spent the three weeks of autumn each year shooting photos for his 220-page coffee table book, which is available for purchase at The Bookworm of Edwards.

“I love this book for its simple beauty,” said Besse Lynch, marketing manager for The Bookworm of Edwards. “There are few photography books out there in the world of this caliber that so perfectly capture the splendor of fall in the Rockies. You can almost smell the rich musty sent of the wooded landscape and feel the cool mountain breeze as you peruse the pages of ‘Seasons of Gold.'”

Here are Hanna’s five tips for capturing stellar fall photos.

Do some research. Find out where the best locations are. For Colorado, pick up a copy of John Fielder’s book, “Best of Colorado ” or the Laurent Martres book, “Photographing the Southwest, vol. 3.” Or, log on to the Nature Photography Network’s Rocky Mountain site at, and check out the Hot Spots and Forum tabs for latest information on where and when to go. There’s a wealth of information here, provided by skilled photographs in the know.

It’s all about the light. Autumn light is special because the sun angle is lower and therefore more saturated. The best time of day is before 10 a.m. and after 3 p.m. Light in the Colorado mountains is special because of the altitude and clean atmosphere, along with developing weather systems that produce beautiful and dramatic cloud formations.

Be patient. Once you get to a promising site, wait for the light to be right. Clouds are always moving, sometimes just 10 minutes can make a big difference. Still, this could be minutes, hours or days – or even longer – so sometimes you have to return again and again until you have the picture that satisfies you.

Use a tripod. I know it’s a pain, but especially in low light situations such as sunrise and sunset (the best light), you can’t hand hold a camera and still have sharp images. For the more advanced photographer, the ability to stitch or blend several images together requires the images to be on the same plane or in register, requiring a tripod. At any site, it’s easy to distinguish the amateurs from the pros –the pros are all using tripods.

Less is more. Composition is critical so crop in the camera. Eliminate anything in the field of vision that isn’t essential to a compelling image. In the words of the late Charlie Meyers, “It might be said that a skilled photographer views the world as a series of rectangles … the artist instinctively recognizes that certain blocks contain articles of great interest or grand visual appeal. The knack comes in isolating these special slices of geometry from a broader, less appealing fabric, like finding rare gemstones among a pile of pebbles.”

– Rod Hanna

High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 970-748-2984 or

Support Local Journalism