5 INSTAGRAMMABLE SPOTS IN COLORADO

So you've seen a picture of Colorado on Instagram. You flew to Denver, picked up one of our Campervans and proceeded to the route chasing the same landscapes you saw on Instagram. There's only one problem: you aren't sure where and how to take these pictures. What angle to choose? Where was the photo taken? When was it taken? 

To help you out, here are a few photography tips on Colorado's most popular destinations!


CREDITS: @vanlife.sagas

CREDITS: @vanlife.sagas

1. EMERALD LAKE - ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK

Where to shoot - 

About 1h30 north of Denver on Route US-36 is Estes Park. Drive up to the end of Bear Lake Road and start your hike in the forest. You'll see pristine alpine lakes along the way, and maybe a few elks as well. Emerald lake is at the end of the trail. 

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How to shoot -

You'll need a wide lens to capture the lake AND the top of the mountain in the same shot (we used a 17-40mm). You'll also need to dodge some tourists if you want a clear shot. We suggest trying to stay a bit elevated to frame the whole thing.

When to shoot - 

Afternoon is good, although you might run into more people. The sun will most likely hit the lake with a right angle, making the water look even more turquoise. Unfortunately, the water will look less blue if it's cloudy. It's still worth the hike!


CREDITS: @vanlife.sagas

CREDITS: @vanlife.sagas

2. GREAT SAND DUNES

Where to shoot - 

If you want to shoot the Sahara, but don't want to fly all the way down to Africa, here's an alternative for you: Great Sand Dunes National Park. Compare it to a small piece of the desert that was imported in Colorado for a beach party. Got it?

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How to shoot - 

Some people like to frame the picture with the mountains in the back. Others will want to take the dunes from far away to show how large they are. We suggest walking at the bottom of the first few hills and shoot towards the setting sun. You'll have the impression that you are indeed in the Sahara. We used a 24-105mm lens to give some depth to all this sand.

When to shoot - 

Sunset, definitely. 


CREDITS: @j.scud

CREDITS: @j.scud

3. CRYSTAL MILL

Where to shoot - 

Two of our collaborators, @Rustic Bones, and @J.Scud are pros at shooting this area. It is located about 4 hours west of Denver, and once you get there, you'll probably need to hike for a bit. Scud says it's around a 10 miles hike if you do not have an all-terrain vehicle. 

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How to shoot - 

Now that's a tricky one. Although the place is legendary, it doesn't mean all pictures of it will be. So you have to work on your composition here. We think the best angle of that place might be right on top of the waterfall, where you can have a good idea of how unique that building is. Again, you will need a relatively wide angle to make everything fit in the frame.

When to shoot - 

Here, we don't necessarily suggest a time of day, but rather a certain weather. After seeing dozens of images of Crystal Mill, we found that gray/rainy weather fits the scenery very well. It is an abandoned mill after all, right?!


CREDITS: Neeraj Ghole

CREDITS: Neeraj Ghole

4. HANGING LAKE

Where to shoot - 

There are many spots where you could pull your camera out of your bag and shoot in Glenwood Canyon. Yet, Hanging Lake is an excellent bet for any photographer. Head about 7 miles east of Glenwood Springs on the side of I-70m and you'll find the trailhead. Go all the way to the top of the canyon (1,204 feet up / 2.8 miles). 

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How to shoot - 

That's another tricky one. The lake is fantastic, but if you want to make it look natural, you will have to frame your picture without the boardwalks around it. You can use a wide angle (something between 14 and 24mm) and shoot towards the mountain while being close enough to the water so you can see how clear it is. One good spot to have a perfect angle is where the fallen tree is. Don't walk on it: squat down and take your picture from there. 

When to shoot - 

The afternoon is an excellent time to take pictures of Hanging Lake. However, you'll have a bit more hikers also trying to take the perfect shot. Patience is key. 


CREDITS: Heather Rousseau

CREDITS: Heather Rousseau

5. MAROON BELLS AND MAROON LAKE

Where to shoot - 

Now that's a classic. Near Aspen, Maroon Bells and Maroon lake is amongst the most photographed places in Colorado. It's probably a good place to start if you want to make sure you have at least one stunning picture of your trip. 

How to shoot - 

There aren't compositions to choose from except what we call "the centered composition." Put the two peaks right in the middle of your frame and make sure everything on both sides of your picture is symmetric. You can put the horizon (the edge of the lake) right in the middle of your frame, horizontally. 

When to shoot - 

You can access the site by car before 8 AM or after 5 PM. Otherwise, you will have to take a bus to reach the lake. That's a good thing though, since the light will most likely be better before 8 AM and after 5 PM.

 

Okay. Enough reading already. Get out there, and have fun. We want to see your work and hear about your experience. If you have other tips to share with our #nativevanlife community, please do!