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John Fielder frames a conversation on wilderness in Aspen talk

Andrew Travers
The Aspen Times
The Maroon Bells Snowmass Wilderness Area, photographed by John Fielder. Fielder will give a slideshow presentation of his work in wilderness areas Wednesday at Paepcke Auditorium, concluding an evening program celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act.
John Fielder |

If You Go…

What: Untrammeled! Wilderness in the Human Era, presented by Wilderness Workshop

When: Wednesday, Sept. 10, 6 p.m.

Where: Paepcke Auditorium

Cost: $10 advance, $15 at the door

Tickets and more information: 970-963-3977; http://www.wildernessworkshop.org

Landscape photographer John Fielder and a panel of environmental leaders will take the stage at Paepcke Auditorium on Wednesday in a multimedia presentation concluding a series of local summer events celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act.

Dubbed “Untrammeled!” the Wilderness Workshop celebration opens with the premiere of a new short film on wilderness by Roaring Fork Valley native son Pete McBride. The evening’s centerpiece will be a panel discussion with environmental activist Dave Foreman, the co-founder of EarthFirst!, Jamie Williams, president of the Wilderness Society, and former Forest Service supervisor Gloria Flora, best known for her 1997 decision blocking gas development on more then 350,000 acres of public land in Montana.

Fielder will present a slideshow of images he’s captured in designated wilderness areas over the past 40 years, “from Colorado to Alaska and in between,” as he put it Monday. Fielder’s slideshows and talks around the West — and frequently in Aspen — blend visuals with his stories from his decades trekking around the outdoors.



“It’s the rare opportunity to photograph places that are untouched by man,” Fielder said of his work in land protected under the law passed by Congress in 1964.

Over the years, Fielder has photographed all 43 of Colorado’s designated wilderness areas. Fielder’s slideshow presentation includes his top five personal favorite wilderness areas, he said, which include the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Area in Aspen’s backyard. In a memorable project in 1993, he and writer T.A. Barron spent a month hiking around the Bells, covering 225,000 acres on foot for their book “To Walk in Wilderness.”




A favorite moment in wilderness, he said, was an encounter with a billy goat on a shoot in the Weminuche Wilderness Area, in the San Juan Mountains. He’d woken up before dawn to shoot a sunrise and positioned a large-format studio camera to capture it. Moments before the sun appeared, the billy goat walked up and lay down in the frame.

What could have been a simple annoyance turned into a profound experience with the natural world as the animal stuck by Fielder for a full day and night.

“He just lay down right in front of me before I took my sunrise photo,” Fielder recalled. “Eventually I lay down with him, and we spent 24 memorable hours together.”

A transplant from North Carolina, Fielder lives in Summit County and has been traveling around Colorado and shooting wild places since the 1970s. His richly rendered landscape photography, chromatic portraits of mountain scenery and little-known swaths of wilderness have filled coffee-table books and guides, postcards and calendars, earning him a place as one of the country’s most celebrated chroniclers of the natural world.

His photographs offer an objective argument for preserving wilderness, but he’s also become a vocal advocate for new protections — stepping into the political realm. In the tradition of Ansel Adams, Fielder uses the seemingly apolitical medium of nature photography as a tool for conservation. U.S. Sen. Tim Wirth enlisted Fielder to talk to the public during the 12-year-long battle to pass the Colorado Wilderness Act of 1993.

Fielder’s book “Mountain Ranges of Colorado,” first published to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, has been reissued for the 50th, and Fielder has been touring the country talking about it this summer. He’s selling that title and his other books at Wednesday’s events, with proceeds benefiting Wilderness Workshop.

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