Create. Inspire. Connect. These are the three ideas around which we launched the Focal Point Academy Tours in 2014. And certainly we had a chance to experience all three in the Autumn in the Aspens Photo Tour which was based in the Gunnison National Forest outside of Crested Butte. In planning a tour you pick the best possible time on the calendar and focus on locations that are photographically rich and then hope that fall color, weather, and light come together. And incredibly, we were treated to all three...every day! Just hard to believe, really, what we were experiencing. Each day somehow seemed to top the one before.
Most days we were photographing from 6:15 in the morning to sunset or after, around 7:30 or so. Because we had nice diffused lighting from the cloud cover all day, we could literally shoot from sunrise to sunset. I've never run out of CF card space before but on this particular trip, the cards were full! Cool! The other goals we had were to make some improvements to workflow in the field, improve and experiment with new compositions and also touch on the digital darkroom when we actually had time to process images (either at lunch or at 9:00 pm!). We were definitely able to hit all these topics and even work in a few image reviews to see how everyone was doing. As a result I think there was an ideal combination of learning, photographing, and even some new motivation for all of us. We were all super stoked about the experience and still are!
Crested Butte is a fantastic place to base a photo tour. It's hard to imagine a better place actually. I'd photographed the area several times before on week long trips but it's a place that even if you lived there year round, you would never feel like you've even scratched the surface on the photographic possibilities. Kebler Pass road or CR 12 heading West out of Crested Butte is a favorite place to photograph Aspen groves in the afternoon light and also has several locations with majestic mountain peaks in the background. And a number of the valleys North of town offer all kinds of photographic opportunities. We had a daily itinerary but kept flexibility each day to the weather and conditions. I think we had snow, sleet, rain, clouds and on rare occasion a little bit of sun. But, some locations we loved so much that we just kept going back and were certainly rewarded. I would rather go to a known place to photograph and explore points of view and compositions than head out to an unknown place and scramble and potentially miss the best light.
After several days of just killer photography in Crested Butte we headed down to Ridgeway Colorado to focus on the Dallas Divide and Owl Creek Pass areas. There's something special about the Aspen groves in and around Owl Creek Pass that I will never tire of. Just a simple beauty that keeps drawing me back. The afternoon light down in the valley with the Pinnacles formation as a dramatic backdrop is just an amazing experience. We saw an incredible show. Dallas Divide with CR 7 and CR9 is another region with so much to photograph.
In the end, we had some very focused photographic time, learned a bit, even ate some good food, and just had an absolute blast!!! Can't wait to get back there next year...
Here's a quote from one of this year's participants:
"I will preface this by saying that in the past years I have been on a half dozen photo workshops led by the top professional photographers in the industry. They have been from the east coast to the west and many locations in between. I can say that without a doubt, Dusty Doddridge’s workshop was un-categorically the absolute BEST workshop that I have been on. None of the others come close. He was totally prepared, he made sure that you got the best photos possible, and did so with inspiring enthusiasm."
Here's a link to the 2014 Tour list which will be updated within a few days for 2015!