Summit County-based nature photographer John Fielder, facing cancer, basks in beauty he helped preserve |

Summit County-based nature photographer John Fielder, facing cancer, basks in beauty he helped preserve

Bruce Finley
The Denver Post
Nature photographer John Fielder has dedicated his 40-year career to protecting Colorado’s open spaces, ranches, and wildlands. He received the distinguished Sierra Club Ansel Adams Award in 1993, and the Aldo Leopold Foundation’s first Achievement Award in 2011.
John Fielder/Courtesy photo

Colorado nature photographer and environmentalist John Fielder sat on a couch inside his Summit County home recently gazing at jagged Gore Range mountains, not through the frame of a camera but a window — a spectacular scene among thousands that he has immortalized.

“Here I am at 72,” Fielder said, “and cancer is trying to take my life.”

He’s been enduring pancreatic cancer by relying on the same rational approach he honed in handling countless “curveballs” nature hurled while he covered all of Colorado’s 104,094 square miles photographing landscapes. Vehicle breakdowns above timberline, rafts flipping in whitewater rapids dumping him and all his gear, bears bulling into his camp, sudden storms plunging temperatures below freezing — all became challenges for the father of three to overcome by using brainpower, avoiding panic, and summoning strength the way a mountain climber does in ascent.

Fielder also got through personal tragedies — losing his wife, Gigi, after she was diagnosed at 52 with Alzheimer’s disease. He suffered especially after his son died by suicide.

“You know, I have had to self-rescue myself, get out of difficult situations, over 100 times before,” Fielder said. “To me, this is simply self-rescue number 101. It is a problem to be solved.”

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