It’s Aspen Season: How I Photograph Landscapes

by | Sep 15, 2021

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

“The lake and the mountains have become my landscape, my real world.”— Georges Simenon

I am not now nor have ever considered myself a dedicated landscape photographer. Oh sure, I dabble in it when shooting infrared landscapes and have lots of fun doing that but living here in Colorado it’s impossible not to be some kind of a landscape photographer, even a half-hearted one like me who does it mostly for fun.

While it may be a oversimplification to say that anybody can make a great photograph in Monument Valley, the truth is that the art of landscape photography often gets confused with the real estate business because of its emphasis on location, location, location.

Here’s how I approached that topic once upon a time… Years ago when I was a student at the Maryland Institute, College of Art, I attended a class on “Color” and the first assignment the instructor tossed at us was landscape photography. Back then I wasn’t that interested in landscape photography, although I enjoyed photographing landscape with infrared film during that time too. But as a serious student I ended up developing a series of principles on the “what” and “how” that I would use when I did photograph landscape images. Consider it one of the original “Farace’s Laws,” although I never thought of them that way at the time.

Here are the guidelines that I used back then and still follow today. They are not cast in concrete and are presented here only as suggestions for your own explorations

  • Photograph locally
  • Use a wide angle-of-view
  • Create the maximum depth-of-field
  • Saturate the colors

So back to that assignment: When I completed that landscape photography assignment oh-so-long ago, it’s subtext was that I was only going to photograph landscapes that “I could walk to from my house.” At the time, I lived in the Western part of Baltimore City and after projecting the slides (yes, film) for critique in class everyone, including the teacher, was singularly unimpressed. That’s when I announced my assignment’s subtitle and that’s also when the teacher my fellow students asked to see the images again. And that’s just the kind of effect you want to have on whoever your own audience may be—“can I see that again?”

Each weekday and some weekend days no matter the weather, although I’ll confess to being a wimp on really or cold or hot days, I take a walk around a nearby lake or maybe O’Brien Park as I did yesterday. I usually take a camera along because you never what I may find along the way. Using some of these images plus some photographs that I made before moving to Daisy Hill, I created a  presentation called Right in Your Own Backyard for the FOTOfusion conference several years ago. In it I showed many of the photographs that were shot during these walks. While this presentation is now somewhat out of date, sometimes the audiences, as they did back when I was in school, ask to see them again.

Starting in mid-September, you can expect to see aspen trees turning gold at elevations from 8,000 to 10,000 above sea level. Later in the season in October to mid-November, you can see spectacular color down in the foothills and along the plains in Denver.


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