Behind the Photo: Painted Wall Sunset

February 03, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Painted Wall SunsetPainted Wall SunsetSunset at Painted Wall in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

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

On March 15, 2020, the world came to a standstill. I was on my way home from a ski trip, which would turn out to be the last of the season, as ski resorts were forced to halt operations in the wake of the rapidly spreading coronavirus pandemic. Anxious and confused about what lie ahead, I turned my car north from CO-50 towards the South Rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. As I walked out towards Gunnison Point, behind the Visitors Center, a sense of calm washed over me as the immaculate depths of the the canyon unfolded before me. In the throes of human panic and illness, I was struck by the unchanging nature of the landscape before me. I remembered my first visit to the Canyon, a moment filled with wonder and joy. I thought of this photo, a memory of the freedom and adventure which would be uprooted for so many people throughout 2020. 

In August 2018, I spent a week camping around Colorado with a close friend. To this day, I look back fondly on the trip and the freedom I felt while visiting some of our state's most beautiful areas. One of our stops was Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, where I took this photo of the famous Painted Wall. Black Canyon is one of the least visited national parks in the West, but that is not for a lack of natural beauty. Located a short drive from Montrose, the canyon rim sits roughly 8,000 feet above sea level. The canyon itself is the deepest in Colorado, dropping some 2,250 feet to the Gunnison River, which runs West from the Continental Divide towards its confluence with the Colorado River. In the early 1900s, the Black Canyon was the site of a modern engineering marvel, when an irrigation tunnel was bored through the dense rock walls to the Uncompahgre Valley southwest of the Park. Marked by a Presidential visit to celebrate its opening, the Gunnison Tunnel allowed irrigation for many ranches between Ouray and Montrose. 

When I look back on my favorite photos, I am reminded instantly of the time and place they were taken. Although my memories at Black Canyon now bear a unique personal connection to the ongoing pandemic, I still remember the peace and happiness I felt while watching this sunset. I was with a great friend in a beautiful place and I there was nothing else I needed to worry about other than framing this shot just right, with the colorful array of bushes in front of a stunning sunset over Painted Wall. 


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