Summit photographers share tips for taking great photos |

Summit photographers share tips for taking great photos

Taking a good photo of a Summit County scene can be tricky, but several local photographers have advice for those who want to document their time in the area.
Photo by Denise Thatcher

Arguably one of the best things about Summit County is its natural beauty. From Hoosier Pass in the south to Ute Pass in the north, between the Eisenhower/Johnson Memorial Tunnels to the east and Vail Pass to the west and in most parts in between, you’re more likely to find a spectacular vista than an ordinary one.

With all of the mountain scenery to be had, the more daunting challenge for visitors often can be taking a photo that adequately encapsulates the feeling of what it was like to witness the view firsthand.

Some people might prefer to take home a professional image from a local gallery, but for those who are inclined to share their own vacation snaps, some local photographers have a few hints to share.

A mountain goat is pictured at Blue Lakes in 2017. Stephen Johnson said the location is one of his favorite spots to take photos.
Photo by Stephen Johnson

Finding the right spot

Though it can get crowded, Stephen Johnson said Blue Lakes, up past the Quandary trailhead off Colorado Highway 9, is one of his favorite spots to take photos in Summit County.

He and several other photographers also recommended Boreas Pass Road for its scenic views of the Tenmile Range, where Breckenridge Ski Resort is located. The road provides several pull-off areas with views of most of the runs on Breckenridge and is also a popular place to capture the aspens changing color. During the winter, much of the road is closed to automobile traffic but is open for nonmotorized traffic all year.

For a great roadside vista, Denise Thatcher said Ski Hill Road in Breckenridge provides some excellent views of Bald and Boreas mountains.

For Elaine Collins, a lot of her photography is about being in the moment and focusing on her surroundings.

“It is hard to get away from a beautiful view,” she said about Summit County. “Almost anywhere’s good.”

“Sometimes I may go on a hike hoping to catch sight of a wild animal … and instead I see a stunning sunset, and vice versa,” she said.

A sunset is seen from Swan Mountain Road. Elaine Collins said a lot of her photography is about being in the moment and focusing on her surroundings.
Photo by Elaine Collins

Capturing a good sunrise or sunset

To grab a good image of a mountain sunrise or sunset, it might be worth investing in a tripod, which will allow for longer exposure times without the risk of taking a blurry photo. Collins said puffy clouds can help make these photos more interesting.

She recommends heading up “anywhere high where you can see east” for a good sunrise photo and adds that Bald Mountain is an excellent sunset spot, though it might require walking up or down in the dark to get the best shot.

For the less adventurous, she said she loves watching the sunset at Dillon Amphitheater. Johnson swears by Summit Cove on the eastern edge of Dillon Reservoir, which is one of his favorite places to see the sunset.

A few other photographers mentioned that the Sapphire Point overlook off Swan Mountain Road is an excellent spot for sunrise and sunset views but warned it has a tendency to be overcrowded.

An Alpine pika is pictured near Loveland Pass in 2018. To get high-quality photos of local wildlife, it often takes specialized equipment.
Photo by Ruth Carroll

Mind the animals

Aside from the views, another photographic draw in Summit County is the wildlife. A large portion of the county consists of lands protected by the White River National Forest, and wildlife sightings are not uncommon, even in residential areas or in the middle of town.

While seeing wild animals in their natural setting can be a thrill, taking a good photo of them isn’t easy, especially without specialized equipment. A U.S. Forest Service guide to wildlife photography also points out that getting too close to wild animals isn’t just dangerous for humans, but it also can stress out the animals and do harm to their health.

When photographing animals, Ruth Carroll said care should be taken to ensure they stay healthy and that they want to stick around.

“We want to continue to live where there’s wildlife,” she said. “If we make them uncomfortable, they’ll leave. And then we won’t see moose or bear or elk … or any of the other critters we love so much.”

Ultimately, Thatcher said there isn’t any particularly good spot for finding wildlife in Summit County, but anyone who stays here long enough is bound to encounter a few wild animals. Collins agreed with that sentiment and usually gives the same advice to visitors asking where they can see wild animals in the area.

“When tourists ask me this question, I tell them to go enjoy the many outdoor things Summit County has to offer, and they will probably see some wildlife,” Collins said.

Hit us with your best shot

The Summit Daily News is always looking for photos of the area to share online and in our printed paper. To see your photos featured, email submissions to, including details about what or who is pictured and where and when the photo was taken. You also can tag your photos with #ExploreSummit to share them with us on Instagram.


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