Autumn Photography in Colorado – 2020

Panoramic Photograph of the Collegiate Mountain Range in Colorado
The Collegiate Mountain Range of Colorado.

As is normal this time each year, I begin planning for a photography trip for Autumn color.

With the pandemic in full tilt boogie, I’ll be working solo.  This year I figured I’d work a little closer to home and travel to Buena Vista, Colorado to explore the Collegiate Mountain Range. The Collegiate range is ripe with mountain peaks over 14,000 feet and there are many lakes, rivers and streams, providing a plethora of scenic compositions. The most important thing though, is the color in the Aspen trees.

Predicting peak fall foliage is a hit and miss proposition some years. I typically plan my Colorado Autumn photo trips for the last week of September and the first week of October. What throws a wrench into the picture is the unpredictable nature of Colorado weather. Adding to the normal unpredictability of weather conditions in Autumn are the effects of global climate change. I’m no weather scientist, but I can say with absolute certainty that the past 3 years have been out of the norm. Autumn 2020 is shaping up to be out of the norm as well. Perhaps, the new normal is that nothing will be normal.

After a near record breaking Summer of hot dry days and drought, Colorado was slammed with an Arctic cold wave on September 8th, which dumped large amounts of snow in the high country and on the Northern front range. The temperatures dropped from the upper 90’s to the lower 20’s in less than 24 hours. This type of dramatic change in weather plays havoc with the trees and foliage in the mountains.

With this drastic weather landing on much of the state, the prediction is for the trees to quickly change color and drop their leaves. In my experience, a hard freeze and temperature drop before peak color usually destroys the vibrancy of the normal color change. Right now, it’s a big unknown. It’s possible that I’ll have to change my plans as the color shift begins over the next couple of weeks. The Collegiate Range was hit especially hard during by the Winter blast, so I’ll be keeping a close eye on the effects and results and I’m very concerned that I’ll simply abandon my Autumn photography for this year. It’s not worth risking being infected by being forced to eat in restaurants for several days and then have lousy scenery to enjoy.

2020, the lost year. I’m already dreaming of the future.