Veins of Gold
Flagstaff, AZ

[I wrote this post last fall but am just publishing it now.]

I have struck it rich!
Veins of gold on mountain slopes
Aspens in autumn

I’ve lived in California since I started taking photography seriously, arriving in 2001 with a cheap Vivitar film camera. Within a few years, I had switched to digital and I have been improving my equipment and skills as the technology develops. Digital photography plays to my strengths and preferences, making it both more affordable and fun. I can take hundreds of photos, sometimes thousands, and play with them endlessly in post-production, recreating the beauty I see in nature.

Before California, most of my life was in the Northeast and New England. So I know what a “real” autumn should look like, with brilliant varied colors painted across the landscape. Reds from nearly violet to the hot-red of flickering flames; oranges that match the luminosity of any sunset; yellows like lemon drops and sunflowers. All complemented by an array of green foliage and the blues of autumn skies.

The experience of fall foliage along the California coast can be disappointing to a New Englander. In Santa Cruz, people say enthusiastically each year, “It looks like fall!” and I respond, “It does? Really?” There is some color but it’s spotty and muted in comparison. The weather and smells aren’t right either.

So what this means is I have not had the chance to develop my photography skills shooting autumn scenes. Taking photos of landscapes and foliage requires different skills from the birds, wildlife and wildflowers I have been focusing on more recently. Dealing with the brightness of the sky and the comparative darkness of land makes for problems.

With our move to Flagstaff, AZ, for September and October 2022, I had the chance to get some of that experience. Flagstaff and its surrounding area is known as a prime spot for Arizona “leaf peeping.” The aspens are the main color event here. And their main color is yellow, but it ranges from lime yellow to sunshine yellow to school bus yellow, and sometimes even orange. But what is truly special here are the dramatic mountains and vistas on which the aspens grow.

Fortunately, we were close to the San Francisco Mountains and Humphreys Peak, the highest point in Arizona. There were clusters of aspens in a band between 7,000 and 10,000 feet, turning color at different times.

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