Overskinned. Story 2

Crystal Creek Mill

(This is the second story out of series of stories about photographing iconic places. This is the scary one which I appropriately post on Halloween.)

After Maroon Bells my next stop was Crystal Creek Mill. There are a lot of photos of this place on the internet. It is very picturesque and I wanted to see and photograph it for myself. The place is kind of remote. The road to it goes thru a small town Marble. As you get closer to the town the road becomes narrower and forces slower driving. The pavement completely ends after Marble. There are still 4-5 miles to the ghost town Crystal where the mill is located. Once the pavement ends road becomes rough. 4×4 with high clearance is recommended. I still managed to get thru the first mile on compact SUV. The road was bad but it was manageable with careful driving. Eventually I had to abandon the car and walk the rest of the distance on foot. The ditches were getting too deep and the rocks were sticking out too high.

It was a sunny day – mildly warm or mildly cool whichever way you want to look at it – the perfect day for hiking. Not too hot that I’d be sweating and not too cold that I’d need to wear something more than T-shirt. I took on a brisk pace ready to meet the place I’ve dreamed of. On the way there I met a couple from France. Their English was not fluent but we still talked a little bit. They were traveling around American southwest. Before the trip they discovered this place on the internet and wanted to visit and photograph it too.

After about a mile I saw that my decision to abandon the car was the right one. There was a rock slide and the cars would literally need to ride over it. There was no room to turn around. I saw some scraping on the rocks – even high clearance vehicle were catching on them. From time to time I stopped and photographed on the way to the mill. Getting closer to Crystal Creek Mill the road was gaining elevation and dusting of snow started showing up on the sides of the road from the previous night’s snow storm.

Finally, after couple hours of hiking I got to the mill. I was so happy! There were about 10 more photographers already there and maybe as many tourists. Many got there on high clearance vehicles or ATVs that can be rented in Marble. I was a bit a bit disappointed at how many people were there and that I needed to wait to get to a spot from which I can photograph the mill. Yet it was just a minor nuance. I was too high on positive emotions from hiking and getting to this place.

The enjoyment lasted for about 5 minutes. Here is an image I got in those 5 minutes:

Apparently the mill as well as the land around it (as well as all the buildings in ghost town Crystal and all the land along the road to the town for that matter) is private property and owner(s) did not want to have anyone there anymore. There were several men of different age (looked like a family) building a fence around. The oldest one was very agitated. He started screaming to people to get back to the road which was the only public land. The funny part was when he screamed “Don’t you understand English!” the couple from France truthfully said that they don’t understand.

I noticed that he also carried a handgun on his belt and his hand was going to the gun and back as he was working over the moral block not to shoot at people. I did not want to wait until he gets “trigger happy” and moved back to the road. Others were ignoring him. Those by the river may not have even heard him over the noise from a waterfall by the mill.

As I reached the road (took me about 10 steps to give you the sense of the size of the place) with my back to the guy I heard shooting. I turned around and to some relief saw that he was shooting into water and not targeting people (hopefully). He emptied the clip and inserted a new one. Those by the river reluctantly started working back up to the road. Strangely enough I was not scared. The best way to describe my mental state would probably be incomprehension. I had never been in a situation where a gun would be fired outside a shooting range and with intent to scare people off.

This incident was followed by arguments and blaming between some visitors and the man with the gun. I did not want to stay any longer there. I was not in the mood to photograph anymore…

Overskinned. Story 1

Sunrise at Maroon Bells Lake

(A series of three stories – frustrating, scary and happy – with a common thread.)

At the dawn of photography back in 19th century there was this guy by the name Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr who was a big advocate for photography in general and travel photography in particular. He talked about taking a photograph as taking a “skin” of reality that was based on his interpretation of an old Greek myth. I don’t want to go too far into that direction as it is not the point of my blog post. The interesting part is that he also warned of possibility of overskinning some scenes. He was concerned that some scenes might be photographed to the point when the scenes themselves will be not interesting. I came face to face with that on my trip to Colorado this fall.


Pacific Northwest has very limited opportunities for fall colors. You’d need to scramble for interesting fall color compositions outside cities in evergreen forests. Going to Colorado and diving into fall colors was a long waiting dream of mine. This year I finally went there. It turned to be a lot of what I expected, a lot more than I expected and some that I’d rather not have. This three stories with a common theme of what photography is for me and what it is not.

Since it was my first time in Colorado I did not have any places of my own in mind; I mostly traveled to well-known places. One of such places is Maroon Bells Lake. It is considered an iconic place of Colorado. Another photographer who went there last year warned me to come an hour before sunrise as there are quite a few photographers coming there to photograph sunrise there.

I scouted the place I want to photograph a day before and showed up there about an hour before sunrise. There were about 20 more photographers along the lake. The place I had scouted the day before was not occupied. I set up my camera on tripod and started waiting. It was freezing cold but everyone was jolly with anticipation. Over the hour that followed number of photographers slowly grew to 70 but everyone was polite and asked if they’re in the way when they setup camera.

Everything was well right up to sunrise, crowded but well. Right before sunrise a guy showed up and put his tripod right in front of my camera. When I politely noted that I was photographing there and he was blocking part of my frame, he said that everyone else was photographing too and would not move. I was pissed but not sure what to do about it except to frame a different image. There was still no way to completely avoid him, so I removed him from a corner of my image in Photoshop.

Next morning I went there without much enthusiasm but with a hope to still take the image I wanted. When I arrived there were already about 50 photographers. The spot where I wanted to make a photo was taken. I got what I got. By the sunrise there were more than a hundred photographers. It was crowded and did not feel very friendly. A guy on the right was frustrated with his gear which he had too much of; switching it constantly in indecision what to use; getting tangled up in it. I was locked into taking one and only one composition. Anything else would mean getting a bunch of tripods in my frame or getting myself into someone else’s frame. Can I be creative in such environment? No.

Busiest Time of a Year

Fall. So many colors. Changing quickly. Fleeting moments…

I love fall most of all. When I was a teenager my favorite time of a year was spring when everyone springs into action, when air is filled with scents of blossom and fresh greenery. Now fall is my favorite. Is it because of age? Or simply the fact that I live in an evergreen state now?

Fall is the busiest time of a year for me. I like spending hours meditating with my camera in a solitude of the Nature. I love diving into its colors. This year I’ve already spent time photographing fall in Colorado, and in Rainier National Park. This week I’m going to yet another location. Naturally, I cannot keep up with processing all the photos. Well, I’ll have the whole winter for that. But I feel like I have to keep up with writing blog. I promised that to myself. So, here is one image from Colorado.

Colors of Fall
Colors of Fall

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