Behind the Image – Aspens & Shadows

Field Note #2

Behind the Image is a periodic feature of the blog where I pick a photo from my archive and explain what led to its creation. Sometimes the image will be the result of planning right down to the most minute detail, other times it will be the result of pure happenstance. Every photo has a story behind it, some worth telling.

aspens, winter, horizontal, film, medium-format, velvia
Aspens & Shadows

Between 1984 and 1994 I was a freelance writer and sometime photographer for the local newspaper in Colorado Springs. My beat was music and entertainment, and I wrote a weekly column, reviewed concerts, and wrote the occasional standalone article if the subject warranted it.

In January of 1991 a Hard Rock Cafe restaurant opened in downtown Aspen. You remember Hard Rock Cafe – expensive food, branded T-shirts and hats, rock & roll memorabilia hanging on the walls. It was a perfect nugget for my column, so I made arrangements to interview the manager for my weekly column. Given that I wasn't about to spend winter prices for a room in the pricey ski town, and no way was the paper going to pony up the dough, I was lucky enough to be able to spend the night with my friend Alice, who lived in a teepee just outside of town on Castle Creek Road. It was quite a set-up – endless views from its wraparound deck, a loft, and even an out-teepee to do your "business" in. She had me sleep in the toasty loft, which gathered a good portion of the warmth from the wood-burning stove. There was a plexiglass window directly across from the loft, so I could see what was going on outside. On this particular night what was going on was a typical January snowstorm. The snow quietly built up on the sides of the teepee until finally reaching its angle of repose, and then WOOSH! – the snow would slide off the teepee and onto the deck, repeating the process all night long.

The next morning, hours before my scheduled interview, I grabbed my camera gear and headed out in search of enticing winter photographs. The storm had mostly cleared by morning, leaving a pristine snowy landscape in its wake. This was a year before I started my company, Skyline Press, so most of my photo endeavors were simply to build my inventory of worthy photographs, and of course out of sheer joy for the photographic process. As I drove up and down the road searching for compositions, I had a mantra repeating in my head – aspens and shadows, aspens and shadows, aspens and shadows..

And then I spotted my scene. There was an open area backed by aspen boles, and to the right of this little opening were trees casting shadows across the fresh snow. Because of the clear blue sky above, the shadows took on that blue hue for an almost surreal look as they followed the gently rolling terrain.

I grabbed my bulky medium-format camera gear – at the time a Mamiya RB67 camera body with a 90mm lens and Fujichrome Velvia film – and trudged up a steep bank of snow along the roadway. Needing a closer vantage point, I stepped into the opening and sunk to my waist in the soft snow. I jabbed my bulky tripod straight down into the snow, as there was no need to spread the legs for stability since the snow would do that for me, and made a few images of the scene. For me this image was the keeper of the outing. Adding a component of sentimentality to the image, it was always one of my mom's favorites as well.

The Hard Rock in Aspen closed its doors less than a decade later, but the photos from that morning endure.

Posted in Behind the Image and tagged aspens, winter, horizontal, film.