Back in July 2011, my wife & I were Jeeping with our friends on the Ophir Pass Road when I noticed some bent Aspen trees along the road, apparently bent by avalanches cascading down the sides of the mountains. At the time, I found it interesting but didn't give photographing them much thought.
In 2022, while researching photo locations in SW Colorado, I saw photos of these trees and recalled seeing them in 2011. I did some more research and soon discovered that the exact location was a well-kept secret, with the closest location description as being east of Ophir on the Ophir Pass Road.
Because I had a general idea of where to look for them, I made plans to find them and shoot a gigapixel wall mural of them during our fall photo tour for 2023. My wife Jean and I drove to the area on our first day in the area. After a good bit of wandering up and down the Ophir Pass Road, where I had seen bent trees in 2011, I found some trees that displayed the bent characteristic. But not the ones all grouped together that I had seen posted on social media. Then I noticed a fellow photographer with her tripod set up some 30 yards off to the side of the road. When I looked to see what she was photographing, I immediately spotted the trees.
Known as the Bent Aspens or the Dancing Aspens, they make for a very interesting composition. I parked the Jeep and took my gear to where the other photographer was set up. I set up my tripod, mounted my 200mm lens and began to shoot a set of photos.
Not wanting to have the effort to find the location be a total waste, I decided to change over to a wider lens and do a lower-resolution image. I mounted my 24-70mm zoom lens and set it to 24mm. I adjusted my Nodal Ninja M3 head to pan at 30-degree angles, providing about 50% overlap for 24mm. I had observed earlier that when a thin cloud would pass overhead, the filtered light made for a very pleasing lighting effect on the Aspens by subduing the hoarse late afternoon sunlight. So I watched the clouds, waiting for a small, thin cloud to cover the Sun. I also had to deal with the wind.
After several tries, I finally managed to capture a set of 5 images where the light had been consistent, and the wind had subsided so that the leaves of the Aspens were not quaking. I stitched these 5 images together to form this final image.
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Dimitri Vasileiou • Editor