For the first time this fall I was fortunate enough to get to spend an entire week in Cuchara in mid-October just when the fall colors were peaking. The weather was also fantastic with a good mix of cold cloudy days and warm sunny days so that I had lots of opportunities to capture some interesting photos on the ground and in the air, shoot some great aerial video footage, and get in some miles on my mountain bike.
We drove across northern New Mexico through dense fog that broke up near Mount Capulin, and I expected clearer weather in Colorado. But as I crossed over Cuchara Pass on Highway 12 from the south late on Friday afternoon, the view up the Cuchara Valley was truly epic. A cloud inversion was creeping up the valley as the sun was dropping low towards the ridge of the Sangre de Cristo range, filling the valley below with golden light and creating deep, gorgeous shadows.
I stopped at a pullout on the northern slopes of the pass and got the DJI Air 2S up in the air as quickly as I could (and keeping with my theme for this year, I had charged up the batteries before leaving home). I’m embarrassed to say that between the excitement of the amazing fall color, epic weather and lighting conditions, the cold air (after sitting inside the warm car for four hours), and the incoming fog, I was not quite sure where to fly the drone or point the camera. The exposures were also quite challenging, but fortunately shooting in 5-shot AEB mode ensured that I captured some usable images, although I was lucky that I got some usable compositions since I was not at all focused.
Once the first drone battery was depleted, I launched the aircraft again to capture some video clips of the fog that was now moving in overhead. With the fog obscuring the landscape, I was afraid to move the drone around too much, so I mostly just recorded footage of the clouds with the drone hovering. Within a few minutes the fog completely enveloped the spot where I was standing, and I was forced to bring the drone back down. By that time, my hands were shaking from the cold so it was time to drive on to the cabin anyway.
On Saturday we ate lunch at Cuchara Mountain Mercantile then visited Cuchara Mountain Park. Although the rain chances had diminished, there were still some thunderstorms in the area and lots of nice clouds to complement the yellow and gold of the aspen leaves so I left with a handful of beautiful fall photos.
After Sunday the skies were clear but I was able to fly the drone several more times throughout the week and captured enough footage to create a fall color highlight reel and also got a few more nice photographs from the air. The weather changed again at the end of the week, so I finished up capturing some iconic spots near La Veta with the Air 2S on Saturday afternoon. Sunday was cold and foggy again, and I ended the week back at Cuchara Mountain Park shooting some film (dedicated post to follow once those images are developed and processed).
I always manage to get at least a few nice fall color images each year when we visit the cabin for Fall Break, but this year I’ve come home with an entire gallery of photos along with some fantastic aerial video footage. I’ve shared my favorite images from the week in the gallery below-I hope you enjoy them! (Leave a comment and let me know what you think.) And check back soon to see my fall foliage film photos.