The Lost Year

Kebler Pass, Colorado. Autumn Color
Kebler Pass. Golden Leaves of Aspen Trees in the Beautiful Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

My Autumn photography endeavors for 2020 are looking poor. I did a full day scouting run on Sept 24th to gauge the feasibility of a photography trip and to be quite honest, I wasn’t encouraged by the suitability of landscape scenes I was finding this year.

The basic problems are multiple here in Colorado.

First, we’ve been experiencing a severe drought this summer. Warmer than usual temperatures across the state coupled with virtually no rainfall have resulted in much of the mountain foliage (aspen, scrub oak, cottonwood) in a seriously distressed condition.

Second, we had a major snow storm and freeze in early September across much of the state and that too has hastened the normal autumn transition time and destroyed the quality of foliage this year. What I’ve seen in most areas are spotty patches of color with most of the major stands of colorful trees having leaves that have turned brown quickly and prematurely. Most of the remaining trees are seriously stressed and appear to be muted in color and in some areas the trees are already having their leaves stripped by wind. It’s just not a very pretty Autumn here this year.

The third problem, and probably the most devastating issue regarding photography is the prevalence of smoke in the atmosphere from the numerous wildfires in the western part of the country. I made a loop drive from Denver to Buena Vista to observe the Collegiate Peaks and the smoke haze was so bad as to obscure peaks in every direction to the point that it was simply ugly to look at and hard to be in from a respiratory aspect.

Adding to the problem is the fact the the weather continues to be hot and dry, with no forecast for any type of change in weather patterns for the next 10 days, which is when the normal color peaking will be occurring.

Another issue of course is the COVID-19 pandemic. Traveling and sustaining myself on the road for several days presents a unique problem during the pandemic, so the bottom line, what I’m seeing in the mountains isn’t worth going after this year. Yeah, there may be a few areas here and there where shots can be found, but committing to several days in a specific area is just not practical this year so I’ve decided to skip this years Autumn Photography trip. I’m majorly bummed out about this, but none of it is going to change with my wishful thinking.

I would also add, that the past several years have been a slow decline in the conditions of trees during the autumn change here in Colorado. Politicians can posture and pontificate all they like, but the effects of global warming are quite evident in the Colorado high country, with weather patterns that one would normally expect to see over a period of time being replaced by extreme patterns that are no longer the exception but rather the rule.

2020 has indeed turned into the “Lost Year” and I personally will be glad to see better times, if and when they happen.