Crested Butte is located in the heart of the Colorado Rocky Mountains. At an elevation of nearly 9,000 feet, this popular ski town, named after the nearby mountain, is surrounded by alpine meadows, vast aspen groves and towering peaks. There are activities for all ages and countless other ways to enjoy this beautiful place. Crested Butte is roughly 230 miles southwest of Denver, and it’s well worth the trip.
There’s a saying up here, “If you don’t like the weather, wait 10 minutes.” The weather can be extreme and fast-changing anytime of year, so always pack rain gear, plenty of water and extra food. Summer temps are mild, rarely getting above 80º F. Winter temps are often well below 0º F, and it’s common to get below freezing during the fall.
The word “photography” literally means “to graph or draw with light,” and in my opinion, as beautiful as the light is up here, it can be challenging to photograph. I’ve been extremely fortunate to call Crested Butte my home for nearly 15 years. In that time, I’ve come to understand the challenges associated with shooting at high altitudes, one being that the air is usually very clear, and almost no atmosphere is perceivable, which, in turn, welcomes high-contrast light. Another is that the light is fast-changing and fleeting. The “golden hour” we all wait for at sunrise and sunset is generally the “golden 10 minutes” up here in Crested Butte.
I’m a firm believer that “the camera doesn’t matter.” In my experience, though, what does matter are the following pieces of photographic equipment: graduated neutral-density filters are a must for controlling high-contrast light, a high-quality carbon-fiber tripod, a simple and reliable ballhead, and an L-bracket that will allow you to switch from vertical to horizontal aspects quickly and smoothly. With only minutes to capture the beautiful light, you don’t want to be fussing around with your gear. Above all, it’s essential that you’re familiar with your camera system and can make calculated adjustments quickly and accurately.
This charming Victorian town and its surrounding wilderness areas are a photographer’s paradise. Wildflowers can blanket the hills from late June to early August. Mid-September to early October is a fantastic time to photograph the fall colors. If winter landscapes are of interest to you, anytime from mid-December to early April is great. Interesting weather can yield interesting light. If you find yourself in Crested Butte on a cloudy or stormy day, I encourage you to brave the elements and head outside. You never know—you may be lucky and capture a rainbow.
“The LEE filter system, in my opinion, is the best on the market. The filter holder, wide-angle adapter rings and the filters themselves are well made and can withstand years of use. Not only do ND grads help you to get the correct exposure in-camera, they also teach you about light and composition. They can darken clouds, revealing shapes and lines that you can match with foreground elements to create visual relationships between foreground and background, thus creating stronger compositions. If I feel I need an ND grad that’s stronger than 3 stops, it usually means I’m not shooting in the most flattering light.”—Raynor Czerwinski Contact: LEE Filters, leefilters.com