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Taking the road less traveled

CHARLIE OWEN
Eagle County correspondent
Special to the Daily/Jim Steinberg
ALL |

Any good nature photographer knows it’s not just a matter of “point and click” when it comes to capturing a great image. The person wielding the camera must decide what time of day and year to take the shot, the best angle and what to include in the frame.

That may not sound like a lot of work for one good picture of a valley lit up with wildflowers, but when you have to fill up an entire book, it can be a little overwhelming.

Jim Steinberg knows firsthand just how much work goes into nature photography. His latest work, “Colorado Scenic Byways,” is a coffee table book and is accompanied by a road atlas. Together, the two volumes contain more than 450 full-color photos of Colorado landscapes captured over a span of three and a half years. Steinberg visited each of the 25 sanctioned Colorado scenic byways at least three times apiece in his 1980 Volvo station wagon (affectionately nicknamed Old Yeller), sometimes sleeping in the car, to get the shot he wanted. He used good, old-fashioned 35 mm and 4-by-5 film instead of digital for the subtlety of color and shadow detail it retains, Steinberg said.

“Hopefully, as you look through it, you see that on each byway, they’re not all done at the same time,” he said. “There are different seasons, they’re going different directions, there’s different times of day. I wanted to really not only get … variety, but I wanted to go back over and over until I really felt I had captured the essence of each byway because each one’s different.”

Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter liked the book so much, he wrote the forward to it and gave a copy to each governor who came to the Democratic National Convention in Denver.

The book and the atlas are divided into the different regions of the state: Plains, Foothills, High Peaks, Mountain Parks and Plateau Country. As a 30-year resident of Colorado, Steinberg said he mostly knew the best time of year to capture each area of the state.

“I know if I go during the month of May to the Comanche (National Grassland), if they had any moisture at all, I’m going to have some pretty good shots at getting some nice wildflowers. And by golly, over a couple of years, I did,” Steinberg said.

What he didn’t know, he researched or just drove the byways until he found what he was looking for.

But it was Susan Tweit who was responsible for writing the descriptive passages in between photos, and she said she did her best to make each one “lyrical and informative.”

“It’s the old writers thing, show don’t tell,” Tweit said. “So for me what was fascinating about the story of the byways is the stories of the landscapes people don’t know.”

She wrote about the small stories woven into the landscapes such as the many hardships gold and silver miners had to face at 12,000 feet in the Silver Thread and Alpine Loop section of the book.

“I looked for the stories that made me sit up and go ‘Aha! I didn’t know that,'” Tweit said.

For the atlas, Tweit and Steinberg collaborated on which details to include, combining their notes and individual tastes to give readers tips on what to do while traveling each scenic byway. Tweit put 5,000 miles on her brand new Subaru Forester driving each byway and jotting down pages of information to include in the book and atlas.

“I really started out thinking I knew the state, and I found out I really didn’t, and that surprised me because I’ve been out and about a lot,” Tweit said.

Charlie Owen can be reached at (970) 748-2939 or cowen@vaildaily.com.


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