Photography tips from a Breckenridge expert |

Photography tips from a Breckenridge expert

Special to the Daily
Summit County, CO
Special to the Daily/Tim Faust

This will be my fourth summer in Colorado and my seventh year working as a professional photographer. This will hopefully mark the first of many articles on photography I will be writing to the readers of the Summit Daily. Hopefully my photography tips and tricks will lead you to create stunning images of your own.

Everyone is a photographer. Whether we photograph with a $5,000 SLR or a simple camera phone, we are all still searching for meaning in our images.

I imagine many of you started off as I did, with a hand-me-down camera from my parents when I was a small child. I photographed everything.

Flowers, friends and of course the family pet. The subjects themselves had meaning for me, but the meaning never translated through the images.

Twenty years later something has definitely changed. Today, I have top-of-the-line equipment, years spent acquiring technical skills, and a career that enables me to travel to amazing places and photograph beautiful people, but none of those things help give my images meaning.

What has really made the difference is the way I think about creating images. When I see a potential photographic subject that interests me, I don’t immediately photograph it like I would have 20 years ago.

I stop and ask myself what about the subject makes it interesting. And the answer I usually give myself has to do with some emotional response I have.

I concentrate on that emotion and make it the subject of my image.

For instance, last year I visited the Denver Zoo. My original desire was to make some pretty images of animals, and that is definitely how I started out. It changed when I came to the primate exhibit and saw the gorilla shown in the accompanying image. We stared into each other’s eyes for several minutes, during which time I completely forgot about my camera. I was so moved by the experience, but before I could think about photographing the gorilla, I had to think about what it was that moved me. It wasn’t that it was trapped in a cage.

In fact, I was quite certain that if it had wanted to, it could have broken right through the thin chain-link fence. That is when it hit me. The gorilla wasn’t really imprisoned by the fence at all. He was really trapped in his own mind. It was a reluctant acceptance of the situation that held him behind the chain link. I became certain that if the fence was removed, he would have stayed right where he was. And that was when I was able to create the image of him.

I hope that next time you are out photographing you take this to heart, and think carefully about the meaning behind the image. Concentrate on the emotion that the subject evokes and not the subject itself, and you will see a huge difference in your photographs.

The snow is leaving, but the wildflowers are still months away. Consider a weekend trip to the desert for a chance to make some great images. Wildflowers abide in the desert around Moab from mid-April through mid-May. Just don’t expect the same blooms you find here in the mountains. The desert is a sparse place, and you will have to look carefully to find flowers like this desert primrose, but when you do, your reward will be some gorgeous wildflower images.

For best results, follow these suggestions:

– Call ahead to find the best spots for wildflowers. Moab Ranger District (435) 259-7155, Arches National Park (435) 719-2299, or Canyonlands National Park (435) 719-2313

– Photograph at sunrise. The heat will cause flowers to close up in the afternoon.

– Use a tripod and get low. Getting down near ground level will give you more interesting composition. A tripod will allow you to carefully evaluate the edges of the frame.

– Wear sunscreen and dress appropriately. Much like here in the mountains, the dry air causes a warm day to quickly change into a very cold night. Be prepared for changing weather.

– Watch your step! Crypto biotic soil crusts abound in the desert. Plant life depends on these crusts for survival. It’s important to stay on established trails, in sandy washes, or on slickrock to keep from stepping on this crust.

Travelling in the early morning will provide the best light, and the best possibility of finding flowers, but don’t stop there. Moab offers excellent opportunities for landscape and action photography.

Take your camera on a mid-day bike ride along the easier (by Moab standards) Bar-M trail. Have a late lunch at Eddie McStiff’s, and then drive to the Delicate Arch trailhead, in Arches National Park. Make sure to get to the trailhead at least two hours before sunset and hike the moderate trail 1.5 miles to Delicate Arch for some great sunset photography. Make sure to bring a jacket and a good flashlight because you will be hiking down in the dark

Timothy Faust is an award-winning photojournalist living in Breckenridge. His work can be seen at

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