Tag Archives: wildflowers

Camping with Kids at Pearl Lake State Park, Colorado

Camping with kids, Colorado

Each summer as a kid, I could always count on at least one family camping trip to Pearl Lake State Park north of Steamboat Springs. It would usually be the highlight of my summer break. Deep in the woods where the cranes call at dusk and dawn —and the only thing that could wake you up at night was the call of a great horned owl — I found my family at its happiest. Dad could fish as much as he wanted, Ben could capture crawdads all day, Mom could look for birds or identify wildflowers, and I could venture off down the sawgrass-laden shore and play pretend.

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Trappers Lake – Flat Tops Wilderness, Colorado

A broad-tailed hummingbird feeds on a rosy paintbrush, White River National Forest, ColoradoClick on images for a larger view.

Summer’s end is fast approaching, which usually means two things in Colorado: luscious Palisade peaches are in season, and most of us are wondering whether we got into the mountains enough.

I started this summer with plenty in the way of mountain time, but they weren’t my mountains. They belonged to the Swiss, and they were ridiculously beautiful. But just recovering from the stresses of that trip meant a good three weekends in a row at home with our little family. By the time we unburied ourselves from the laundry, recharged our businesses, and spent adequate time with extended family, it was late July and I hadn’t seen the Rockies up close in months.

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Steamboat Springs: Lupine, Heather and Burn Off (Part 4)


From the iconic barn — where the fog submerged everything in a cold veil — I drove up the Yampa River Valley to my favorite barn. Things were getting brighter, but the fog remained stubborn and thick. By now, my coffee was gone, and it was tempting to return to the condo for more, but something palpable was in the air. The fog was going to bust wide open.

Just by the barn, I discovered a few clumps of lupine, their crisp leaves and candy-like blossoms at their most perfect.


By now my jean cuffs were soaked to the knee from walking through the tall heather, but I was genuinely loving every minute of this. It wasn’t just the freedom to wander and shoot images, but the conditions were exceptional, too. Any kind of photographer dreams of moments like this where all the elements converge in a beautiful way — light, shadow, color; nature, architecture, highway. Everything looked magical, and I had the whole scene to myself.


To photograph the lupine and grass pods, I crouched low and shot into the sun with two prime lenses — a 50mm f/1.8 and a 24mm f/1.4. With less glass than a zoom lens, I find the compositions simpler and less prone to nasty flares.


As I trudged through the thick grass back to the road, the burn off was beginning. Fog strands were peeling back and revealing a remarkable summer blue sky. A robin perched on a nearby fence post, swallows wheeled in the air eating mosquitos, and an occasional pickup truck drove by at 10 mph. Surely the drivers were savoring the remarkable moment, too, unwilling to do the posted 25 mph.

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Steamboat Springs: Back to My Roots (Part 1)


When I was 18 years old, I found photography. Maybe photography found me.

My graduation gift from high school was a Nikon FM — a mechanical SLR camera from the late 1970s. Because it lacked a brain of any kind, I had to tell it to do everything, and that was the joy of it. I would take two shots of the same thing as much as I could: f/3.2 for the first one, f/22 for the second one. Then I’d play with shutter speeds. Two shots of the same thing became four. And so on.

My first test subjects in the summer of 1997 were Colorado’s wildflowers. I was always in the mountains at that age, if not every weekend, then at least every other weekend, and from late June to early August, the meadows of the Rockies were exploding with color.


This past weekend, Hailey and I and our four-month-old daughter Varenna drove to Steamboat Springs to celebrate the Fourth of July. As we climbed Rabbit Ears Pass, our little girl became antsy — mouth clenched, gutteral “uhhhs” emanating from her throat, kicks to the side of the sunshade on her car seat … OK, we get the point Varenna. You want to be held. You want out. Can’t blame you.


Near the crest of the pass, there is a turn off U.S. 40 where a flat and massive meadow opens to the north, forming a brilliant green apron beneath Rabbit Ears Peak. We pulled off onto the dirt road and bounced along to Dumont Lake, a serene and idyllic lake that has recently been tarnished by beetle-killed pine trees. The wildflowers, however, remain profuse and stunning, with columbine, paintbrush, lupine and glacier lilies decorating the meadows with purple, red, blue and yellow.


Our stop was only 45 minutes, but it gave Renna a break from her carseat and allowed me some time to compose these wildflower shots. Getting a pretty wildflower shot isn’t hard. Getting an original one is. On that account, I don’t know that I got one, but it was a lot of fun trying.


Soon the sky grew dark, the wind kicked up and thunder rolled over the hills beneath the lake. We buckled our little girl back into her seat and drove into the rain…

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Picture Perfect – Colorado Vacation Guide Debuts

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Way back in July when I started this blog, I did a quick “sneak peek” on my first photo editorial assignment, which would publish in the Colorado Official State Vacation Guide, a magazine with a circulation of 800,000 that’s distributed by the Colorado Tourism Office to promote the state. Hailey and I were sent to Crested Butte and Aspen to cover the wildflower season, and I shot and wrote the entire article.

Well, this week it came off the press and I’m thrilled with the result. Here’s where the article begins. Click on the image for the full view!

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And here is the second spread:

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The guide won’t be in circulation for another two weeks or so, but once it is, you can request a copy through Colorado.com. For an online gallery of the trip, visit my portfolio site, TanagerPhotography.com, and click on the Travel galleries.

Special thanks go out to Kelly Faigin (the graphic designer who did such a great job picking out photos and laying out the photo essay…she even used one of my food photos), Hannah Pierce (the guide’s editor), Andrea Golod (head of the photo department) and Dusty Demerson (who conducted the photo class in Crested Butte that was the subject of the story).

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VOTE: Photo of the Year – Category 3 (People in Places)

This is one of the tougher categories to choose from: People in Places. The criteria is simple: spontaneous moments where a person and their emotions are also an expression of their setting. Picking my top 6…not so simple. These are probably my most visible images…ones on prominent rotation on my home page and on PhotoShelter. What can I say: a lot of rich moments from the year.

I highly recommend clicking on each photo to see them larger, especially the first one. As always, your feedback in the comments box about your selection would be much appreciated.

#1. Italian funeral and oblivious British tourists with gelato, Locorotondo (Puglia), Italy.

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#2. Tim Lamberton celebrating autumn in his own special way, Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

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#3. Vendor at Campo dei Fiori Market, Rome, Italy.

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#4. Hailey enjoying the wildflowers south of Crested Butte, Colorado.

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#5. Andrew and a pair of rainbow snails at Brewster Flats, Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

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#6. Sergio the butcher, Assisi (Umbria), Italy.

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Thanks for voting. And don’t forget to vote for my Travel Photo of the Year and my Nature & Landscape Photo of the Year. I’ve received 17 and 11 votes in those categories so far, including a tie in the Nature & Landscape category.

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Colorado Vacation Magazine Shoot – Sneak Peek

Two weekends ago, Hailey and I went on an assignment for the Colorado Tourism Office’s vacation magazine. I shot (and now I’m writing) an article on the Crested Butte Wildflower Festival and Aspen. The publication won’t be available until the end of December, but in the mean time, here’s a sneak peek of four of my favorite shots from the weekend. There was still quite a bit of snow on the southern end of the Elk Mountains, so the shoot stuck to lower elevations where the lupine, sunflower and paintbrush were going mad. In Aspen, we stayed at the Sky Hotel, which had a wine reception and a hilarious pool scene that was, well, so Aspen. More on that another time.

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