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Red Rocks Pandemic

It took my brain little while to process this photo and today (April 11, 2020) really helped push me to finish my thoughts. I took this last week while hiking up Mount Morrison behind Red Rocks Amphitheater. If you hike all the way up its about 2 miles with 2’000 feet of elevation gain. On a normal day, you might only see a few other people out there. I figured during these times more people would be out during the day, but I wanted to get a sunset shot of the city anyway. As I pulled in it was extremely odd to see so many cars parked so late in the day. Most people were just heading down or finishing up and leaving. I decided to wait a little while for things to clear out before I put my pack together and started the hike up. My concern was not that I would miss the sunset shot, but that all of these people together were pretty obviously violating the new rules put in place against public gatherings and social distancing. I witnessed lots of friends hugging and shaking hands as they jumped in their separate cars to head home and people packed in lines like small groups of ants marching down the hill. Normally this would have been amazing to see people out doing something physical and spending time with people they care about, but in these times choices like this will push park authorities to make the difficult decision of shutting down a public space in an effort to protect others. Today, not all that surprisingly that is exactly what happened and as disappointed as I am that one more of my favorite spots close to home is closed, I agree with the decision and feel for the people who had to make the call.

So, onto the photo itself. After things cleared out, I decided to head up even though I was most likely going to miss the sunset. I figured if I could make it to the halfway point, I would still be able to make it out of the park in time for closing hour. I missed the sunset but was greeted with another surprise. An overwhelming portion of the lights in the large buildings rising out of downtown Denver had the lights off. It created an extremely eerie view of the city that I had never seen before and I wanted to capture it! Catching the detail and getting the lighting correct took some effort, mostly because I was not prepared with the lens of choice for a night shot so far away with lots of features. The sky on this night wasn’t correct either. I wanted this photo to have lots of feeling and to fit the mood of what was really going on here, so I did some heavy editing of the clouds and lighting on the top half, which is why this photo is not for sale. I love the way everything in this picture turned out though. Usually, the city steals the light from all of the life going on around it and in this instance that is not possible.

Even though I won’t be able to make the trek up this mountain for possibly a very long time I see a lot of hope here. First, that people are willing to make hard decisions in order to keep us healthy. I am also excited for what this time away from people will likely mean for the health of the mountain itself. This could potentially be a very good thing for habitat regrowth and result in much less pressure on the wildlife for a period of time. The trail will almost certainly begin the stages of starting to reclaim its natural form without people traveling up and down constantly. The wildlife will probably not be as unnaturally nocturnal to avoid interactions with humans, and they certainly won’t have to stop feeding because people want to get a close as possible to make that selfie look good. Most of all I am hopeful that when things do return to normal people will come back out with a renewed sense of appreciation for what these wild places close to home have to offer us. With that renewed respect I would like to see people leaving less trash, respecting the land, and giving back to a place that we need but does not need us.