We met at the Dowdy Draw Trailhead just outside Boulder. This was an Open Space Mountain Parks program that joined forces with renowned landscape photographer, Chris Brown (www.chrisbrownphotography.com). The goal was to learn to look at the nature that surrounds us, both though the lens and beyond it.

Chris explained that most of the time, we look but don't really see. Brain studies have shown that 80% of what we see actually comes from our visual memory bank. For example, when you see a gnarled tree, you might think of a previous gnarled tree you've seen or perhaps a famous photo of a gnarled tree. You might take a picture of it but are then shocked when you get home because it looks nothing like what you remembered.

Here are a few of his helpful hints to help combat this:

1 - Pay attention to the visual experience and how you are looking at things (look at yourself looking).
2 - Ask yourself what is intriguing about the photo you are going to take?
3 - Spend time looking in greater detail.
4 - Don't have a specific goal, but rather let things come to you instead of trying to find a preconceived image.

With this in mind, we were sent forth along the trail to capture a few images.

Attempting to look through new eyes

The vibrant fall color of sumac

Normally one is asked to stick to the trail, but we were allowed to stray carefully since it was fall and there were less plants to risk injuring.


We arrived at a set of benches and learned some more tips of the trade.

Showing the gear

The lens hood lessens reflections.

A polarizer darkens the blue of the sky.

This "hi-tech" piece of equipment flattens a 3D world into what a 2D photo will look like.

Playing with point of focus

Learning how to read a histogram (and how to find the settings in your camera)

Armed now with this information in the forefronts of our minds, we took some time wandering about taking photos again.

A photo of Juanita (our guiding ranger) taking a photo of a woman taking a photo of another woman

We returned to the benches and discussed some of our new observations. Chris talked a bit more about how to compose a photo. Eventually our time was up and we had to head back. But we had learned some important tips to take with us:

1 - How to see
2 - Focus carefully
3 - Expose properly
4 - Compose thoughtfully

5 - And above all, be curious! Explore, seek, discover... ENJOY!

Passing riders