Sunday, August 22, 2010

Trip to Telluride and plein air painting

On Friday morning, Wayne and I headed out for an overnight camping trip near Telluride.  Right off Hwy 145 a few miles south of Telluride, the campground (Sunshine) is situated within an aspen forest around 9,000'.  Wayne had stayed there before years ago, and we had been looking forward to returning to this area ever since we had been through last year on a drive.   It's less than 2 hrs. away from Durango and an unbelievably scenic drive.  We'll be back for a fall color trip in a month or so.

On Friday, after securing a campsite, I had the realization that we'd forgotten a key element necessary to any camping trip:  my sleeping bag.  Oops.  Considering the prospect this might now be downgraded to a day trip, we nonetheless decided to head into Telluride and see if we could get a bag that wouldn't cost a fortune at some pricey outdoor shop.

As luck would have it, a quick chat with some friendly locals pointed us in the perfect direction:  the hardware store!  Ace hardware had just what we were looking for:  a 25 degree bag for less than $30.  The trip being salvaged, we headed back and grabbed our respective gear:  my camera and some bare-bones plein air supplies, and Wayne's fishing gear.  Destination:  Trout Lake.

I didn't want to be bothered with the heavy easel and full set of pastels, so I grabbed a small clipboard, my set of 96 Nupastels, and a pack of #320 sandpaper to paint on.

"Near Trout Lake"
9x11" pastel 

Since for me, plein air painting is more to practice and work quickly than to create some masterpiece, I wasn't going to worry about the outcome.  Having a somewhat limited selection of pastels also forced me to make do with what I had and experiment more with scumbling and blending.   I suppose it doesn't help that I decided to choose a challenging area to paint; how to choose what to include?  

I sat on a rock with the clipboard in my lap and the pastels right next to me on the shore of the lake and painted away.  Not sure how long I spent on it; maybe an hour?  I was lost in the process and it was fun. 

Anyway, it turned out much better than my first attempt at Haviland Lake,  so I'm pleased.  I did rework a bit of it earlier today, just to add the really dark greens of the shadowed areas of the spruce forest.  There's not the sense of depth that I'd like, again, due to palette limitations, but I could see redoing this at some point into a larger studio piece.  

Here are some other photos of the area and the campground area.  I'll save others I took of the amazing hike we did yesterday for another date.  These were taking using the awesome new zoom lens I bought off eBay last week:  a Nikkor 18-70mm 3.5-4.5 DX ED.  The quality of the photos vs. my old 18-55 was immediately apparent; it's nice glass, and I was really missing the ability to shoot wide-angle landscapes like this:

Trout Lake and Yellow Mountains
This is the stunning view I had to paint from.

A family of Canada geese moved into the lake as I approached the shore, slowly making their way to a human-free location.  Shot w/ the telephoto lens @ 200mm.

Parasailing and waxing gibbous moon over Telluride

Alpine pond by the campground - love the aspen forest!

Morning light, aspen and wildflowers at Sunshine campground.  This was 10 ft. from our campsite.


  1. Looks like a great place to camp. Looks like you also had fun painting there. way to go!

  2. Hi Becky,
    Thanks for stopping by! It was just lovely up there. We'll be back in a month for the aspen in their fall colors.


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