On the Trail: Picture perfect?
Aspen, CO Colorado
On our drive to the East Maroon Pass trailhead on Saturday for a hike to Crested Butte, my husband and I decided to first go up to Maroon Lake to see the changing aspens that decorate the mountains in swaths of gold in front of Maroon Bells.
“How many photographers do you think are here right now?” Mike asked me, as we looked for a parking spot. Seventeen, I guessed. Mike, a photographer himself, guessed 44.
We underestimated. I counted 54 tripods alone as I strolled along the shore of the lake, and found that my view of the peaks was second to the view of men and women standing and squatting behind cameras, hands in pockets to keep warm or clutching venti paper cups of Starbucks. The sunlight was hitting the tops of North and South Maroon peaks, and I sat on a rock near a man who was doing the same thing as me ” bemusedly watching photographers taking photos.
There’s a scene in Don DeLillo’s book, “White Noise,” with two characters driving to see “The Most Photographed Barn in America” in the countryside. They’ve driven past five signs advertising the barn, and as they stand there watching throngs of photographers and a guy selling postcards of the barn, one says to the other, “No one sees the barn. Once you’ve seen the signs about the barn, it becomes impossible to see the barn. We’re not here to capture an image, we’re here to maintain one. Every photograph reinforces the aura.”
Maroon Bells are said to be the most photographed peaks in Colorado, and days like last Saturday certainly help maintain their majestic image. But it also seemed like those photographers peering at the digital display on the backs on their cameras were missing the big picture, so to speak. My own husband has been up there plenty of times to capture the same image, and will go again in the future, he says.
Does anyone capture the Bells in a unique way through their camera lens on mornings like these, shooting elbow to elbow with 60 other people? I realized that when I close my eyes, the image of those peaks I see probably comes from a photo. Wouldn’t it be better if my memory of the Bells came from my own brain?
But that’s my own fault, not the photographers’. Maybe we all miss the big picture sometimes.
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A driver looking to squeeze one last four-wheel drive up Aspen Mountain discovered that it’s not the ascent but the decent that poses a challenge.