Aspen photographer finds the healing power of wild places

Aspen resident Devin Pool will discuss planning special shots like this one in his presentation at Hallam Lake.
Devin Pool/courtesy image


What: ACES’ Potbelly Perspectives presentation

When: Tonight at 7 p.m.

Where: Hallam Lake

Who: Devin Pool

Cost: Free to ACES members, $5 for non-members

For many Roaring Fork Valley residents, connecting to nature is what nurtures their soul. For Devin Pool of Aspen, making that connection might have saved his life.

Pool grew up in Texas in a sea of private property.

“I didn’t even know there was public land,” he said.

He struggled with depression and at times in his late teens contemplated suicide.

“I was really lost in the world,” he said.

That changed thanks to the youth minister at the church he attended. The minister organized a backpacking trip for a college group to northern New Mexico. At a lake on Wheeler Peak outside of Taos, Pool discovered another world. He still recalls sitting by the lake and feeling the immensity and grandeur of the outdoors.

“I just never knew that existed,” he said. “It was a breakthrough moment in my life.”

It steered him in a different direction. He became an avid outdoorsman — a backpacker first and foremost. He also developed extraordinary photography skills to capture the life that fascinated him.

He will share his story and his photographs tonight as the featured speaker at Aspen Center for Environmental Studies’ Potbelly Perspective. That’s a speaker series where Roaring Fork Valley residents share stories of their outdoor adventures and travels.

Pool’s presentation, titled “Finding Strength in Wild Places: A Photographer’s Guide to Resilience,” will be held at Hallam Lake at 7 p.m.

The promotion for the presentation says, “His love of wilderness led him to spectacular sunrises overlooking huge glacial valleys, long nights spent atop cold peaks and cool golden light across desert landscapes.”

Pool has taken a couple of trips overseas — Patagonia and the Republic of Georgia. But he typically explores the American West.

“The list is endless of where you can go,” he said.

He came to the Roaring Fork Valley 10 years ago to be a firefighter with the Basalt Fire Department. He now works as a snowmaker on Aspen Mountain early each winter, then settles in as a lift operations supervisor at Aspen Highlands. He works on the summer trails crew at Highlands, as well.

Even at work, he has a spectacular eye for photos. He has captured images during the snowmaking process that are jaw dropping. A mundane image of snow shooting out of a snow gun becomes a fascinating image when captured by Pool’s eye in a particular light or landscape.

For his presentation, Pool said he will share his story of discovering wilderness when he was in a bad place, but also focus on how he plans his photography shots.

He said he wants to share the message with others that nature can be such a wonderful healing power for those facing mental illnesses. At a time when so many people live in an environment where everything is covered in concrete, there’s nothing so pure for the mind as getting into nature, he said.