I am delighted to share that three of my photos were selected as finalists to be on Colorado drivers licenses beginning in Fall 2021. While the public decides on which photo they like the best, I thought it would be fun to share the story and personal meaning of each of the images. At the end of the day, I'm so proud to live in Colorado and hope that my photos bring a smile to face of anyone who may see them. To learn more about this contest and to vote on your favorite, please visit https://dmv.colorado.gov/iconic-colorado.
"Into the great wide open, under the skies of blue..." - Tom Petty
Following a long, yet exhilarating drive from Colorado Springs to Moab, UT, I lay in bed, slowly making my way through the hundreds of photos I took, from the moment I crossed Monarch Pass, until the sunset over Paradox, CO. A brilliant new world had opened up to me; one that I would find myself living in 14 months later. I had visited the San Juan Mountains twice before: on a family road trip during summer break of college, and a few weeks prior, when work brought me to the area. This time, however, I was passing through during the first weekend of October (the best time of year in Colorado) and the views took my breath away.
The San Juans contain some of the wildest and most remote parts of Colorado, but are also chock-full of human history. The jagged peaks, Mt. Sneffels being the most pronounced, are breathtaking and reminiscent of the wild landscapes found in the Canadian Rockies. At one point, millions of years ago, this region sat at over 25,000 feet above sea level - a rounded dome, which eroded away over the millennia to reveal the landscape pictured here. While settlers were first attracted to the region, like so many other parts of Colorado, for the material wealth found inside the mountains, the San Juans now are a haven for recreation and unspoiled wilderness.
Anybody who drives south on CO-550 immediately notices how Mt. Sneffels looms larger and larger over them on the approach to Ridgway. This day, as the stunning peak greeted me on my drive and the colors of fall foliage unfurled around me, I let my instincts take control. I turned onto a dirt road, and I just... wandered. For several hours, I turned onto various paths, easily oriented by the peaks to my south. Around each corner, I would stop, pull over, and grab my camera, which was now mounted on my fully-extended tripod across the backseat for ease of access. The moment was perfect, and I gave myself plenty of time to explore before continuing on my drive towards Utah.
Hours later, while culling my collection of photos for editing, I was struck by this particular scene and the contrast of remarkable colors present in it. For months afterwards, I spent a couple hours per week correcting the colors to match what I had seen and felt in the moment. I delved into editing techniques I had not previously utilized, and in the dead of winter, I was finally ready to share this colorful moment of joy with my friends and family.
It's been nearly three years since I finally said "it's ready." In that time, I moved to Western Colorado and even spent a year living in the San Juans. Mt. Sneffels has become a "welcome home" sign of sorts, as I am regularly greeted by it whenever I make my way into the region again. For me, this photo represents the first time I was truly welcomed into this incredible part of Colorado, and it reminds me of the very best that our state has to offer. If you're making your way into the mountains this Fall, just remember that early October is the best time to visit; this I have learned without fail. If you ever make your way to Ridgway, also be sure to give yourself plenty of time to explore!