Nature, Landscape, and Night Sky Photography by Zach Schierl

fall color

Caught Between the Seasons

Red and orange aspen leaves in the snow

Winter has arrived in the high country of Utah. Fortunately for photographers, autumn was still very much in progress when the snow started to fly. The contrast between the mid-winter wonderland and vestiges of fall color made for some great photo opportunities over the past few weeks:

Red and orange aspen leaves in the snow

Vibrant red and gold aspen leaves after a fresh snowfall, Webster Flat, Utah.

Aspens with golden leaves in fresh snow

Young aspens on a foggy, snowy fall day, Webster Flat, Utah.

Golden aspens in snow

Webster Flat, Utah

A single orange and brown aspen leaf lying in the snow

Webster Flat, Utah

Colorful aspens and snow covered conifers overlooking the Kolob Terrace

Colorful aspens among snow-covered firs on the south slopes of the Markagunt Plateau, looking south toward Kolob Terrace and Zion National Park.

Two yellow aspens trees surrounded by snow covered trees.

Two golden aspens surrounded by snowy conifers, Cedar Canyon, Utah.

Markagunt Plateau, Utah

Markagunt Plateau, Utah

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Fall Color in Southern Utah

Colorful aspens in lava flow, Markagunt Plateau, UT
Ridge of golden aspens near Brian Head, UT

A ridge coated in aspens near Brian Head, UT begins to turn color in the early fall. The view from the Markagunt Plateau is truly expansive; in the background are ranges and valleys in the Great Basin of western Utah, and on a clear day one can clearly see Wheeler Peak in eastern Nevada

Another autumn is upon us, and once again we find ourselves becoming familiar with the surroundings of a new home, this time in Southern Utah. Why this neck of the woods, with its famous expanses of colorful slickrock, isn’t more well known for fall color, I do not understand. Near Fish Lake is the largest single aspen colony in the world, which also happens to be the worlds heaviest known organism period.

A bit closer to home for us is the Markagunt Plateau, which reaches elevations of over 11,000 feet and contains expansive reaches of aspen that rival, and to be honest probably beat, any we experienced in Colorado. The weather has been fairly mild for the last month or so, with few storms and little wind, allowing the leaves to put on an extended show:

Colorful aspens in lava flow, Markagunt Plateau, UT

One of the unique features of the Markagunt Plateau are a number of expansive and recent (<10,000 years) lava flows that coat much of the landscape above 9000 feet. The stark lava flows provide a stunning backdrop for the brilliant fall colors that occupy pockets of soil within their midst.

Colorful aspens dot lava flows on the Markagunt Plateau, UT

Aspens and lava flows, Markagunt Plateau, UT

Golden aspens on the Rattlesnake Creek Trail, Utah

A beautiful grove of aspens on the Rattlesnake Creek Trail near Brian Head, UT. This trail has clearly been a popular route for quite some time; we found inscriptions on some of these aspens dating back to 1903! (Along with many more recent ones sadly…)

Red aspen leaves near Duck Creek, Utah

This pocket of trees near the Duck Creek Campground possessed the most vividly red leaves I’ve ever seen on aspen trees.

Golden aspens on the Markagunt Plateay

Golden aspens coat the flanks of Hancock Peak, a small cinder cone on the Markagunt Plateau. This view was obtained from the summit of Brian Head Peak, 11, 312 feet above sea level. In the distance is the western escarpment of the Paunsaugunt Plateau, home to Bryce Canyon National Park.

Aspens in fog, Markaguny Plateau, Utah

I pass this grove of aspens several times per week on my way to work. I had been keeping an eye on this particular tree for weeks, and on this foggy day I finally pulled the car over to snap a photo.

Colorful Aspens in the Fog, Markagunt Plateau, UT

More aspens in the fog, Markagunt Plateau, Utah


Summer Fades, Winter Enters

Golden aspens and creek in Rocky Mountain National Park

While the snow may be falling and the vegetation dying, I am still alive and well here in Northern Colorado. This past spring, I somewhat rapidly went from working zero hours per week to working 50-70 hours per week which, as they say, “crimped my style” when it comes to photography.

We’ve had a glorious month of unseasonably warm fall weather here in Colorado and I was fortunate to get the chance to take several trips into the high country over the past few weeks to photograph fall colors. The presence of a leaf blight on many aspens in Northern Colorado (due to a fungus that took hole during our spring & early summer deluge) led to dire speculation that this season’s leaf show would be a letdown. Indeed, I did come across occasional unsightly stands of aspen with leaves that looked as though they been crisped by a torch. But many other locations appeared completely unaffected and lived up to the annual hype. Enjoy the photos!

Note: 2016 photography calendars will be available soon! Details to come…

Golden aspens and creek in Rocky Mountain National Park

Aspens along the lower Roaring River, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Red, yellow, and green aspens

A bright palette of red, yellow, and green aspens in Wild Basin, Rocky Mountain National Park. Nature’s stoplight! Just not quite in the correct order…

Golden aspens near Pennock Pass, Colorado

Pennock Pass, Colorado

Golden Aspens near Pennock Pass, Colorado

Pennock Pass, Colorado

Fallen aspen leaves on a trail in Rocky Mountain National Park

Fallen leaves litter a trail in Wild Basin, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Poison ivy changes colors in the fall

Aspens aren’t the only plant that change color in the fall! Poison ivy (Toxicodendron rydbergii) can often have colors to match.