Photographer’s presentation to cover wide variety of topics on a large scale | PostIndependent.com
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Photographer’s presentation to cover wide variety of topics on a large scale

Dennis Webb
John Fielder
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John Fielder’s latest book is big – real big. Small just wouldn’t do when it came to trying to cover as mammoth a topic as “Mountain Ranges of Colorado.” “This is my opus mountain book,” Fielder said in a telephone interview in advance of the slideshow he will give Tuesday in Glenwood Springs.”I wanted the book to be as large as would be affordable and practical,” he said.The ambition of the 6-pound, 232-page, 12-by-13-inch, $75 book is nothing less than to describe and depict 28 distinct mountain ranges in Colorado, as photographed by Fielder over some 15 years of tramping around the state’s high country. In some cases he spreads single alpine images across two pages in an attempt to put in readers’ laps some feel of the breadth and scope of the peaks he loves so much.

“Mountain Ranges of Colorado,” if not a life’s work, represents highlights of Fielder’s efforts in his prime as a landscape photographer. Over his career he’s explored Colorado as few have, often going off the beaten path in search of unique backcountry views seen by few. While some recent medical treatment has given him renewed hope of getting some more tough backcountry miles out of his battered knees, Fielder doesn’t expect to be able to replicate in future years the kind of hiking he’s done up to now.As a result, “I will never do a mountain book as good as this that portrays the alpine zone of Colorado,” Fielder said.That zone thrills Fielder like perhaps nothing else about Colorado. It’s one of the reasons he considers Colorado’s mountains the world’s most beautiful. “There’s no more fertile tundra anywhere, with the fecundity of wildflowers, and then having 65-million-year-old pink Eolus granite in the background,” Fielder said.Eolus granite makes up the central part of southwest Colorado’s Needle Mountains, Fielder’s favorite range in Colorado.”All of those alpine lakes and ragged peaks that define that place … it’s as good as mountains can get in my mind. All they lack is glaciers,” said Fielder.

The Gore Range in Eagle County is another favorite range of Fielder’s. Like the Needles, it’s rugged, and with few trails, it offers the chance to get away from crowds and enjoy little-seen sights.Fielder hesitates to talk about favorites, finding things to love in all of Colorado’s mountains. The Elk Range, for example, is unique in its red rock set off against green tundra and white snowfields. But this range, which so many Fielder book feature, isn’t one he cites right away in talking about the mountains he favors the most, perhaps in part because its passes feature accessible and fairly tame trails that can make the Elks highly crowded. The kind of visitation to mountains in places such as Aspen has convinced Fielder that it’s time to start limiting numbers of visitors in some parts of the backcountry in order to protect it.Fielder chooses in parts of his book not to give precise information about the locations of certain things he has photographed, such as a favorite lake or waterfall. He’s not being selfish, he said.”People do tend to follow where I go, and the untrailed places can’t stand the extra traffic, so I’m pretty aloof about mentioning specific places where they don’t have a developed trail,” he said.

While he otherwise is usually glad to give locations, he has some reservations about denying others the opportunity of discovering special places on their own, Fielder said.Anyone familiar with Fielder’s work probably knows that he’s not just a photographer of Colorado’s wild places but an advocate for them. He purposely timed the release of his new book to correspond with the 40th anniversary of the 1964 Wilderness Act this year.People attending Fielder’s slide show Tuesday can expect to hear him weigh in on issues of wilderness, and express concerns over things such as plans to build 2,500 homes on Wolf Creek Pass in southwestern Colorado, he said.Fielder hopes to inspire others to come to love Colorado’s mountains and be their advocates as well. He also uses his book to show some glimpses of his high-elevation experiences over the years, from waiting out a storm for so long that just the sound of flossing teeth was enough for tentbound companions to upset each other, to marmot-caused vehicle damage that led to an astronomical towing bill, to a magical moment when a mountain goat wandered into the foreground of a scene Fielder was shooting, providing him with a rare opportunity to shoot wildlife with a large-format camera. The photo of that side-lit goat graces a two-page spread in Fielder’s book.Fielder also is proud of the book’s focus on the geology of Colorado’s mountains. Chapters on each range begin with a narrative prepared largely by geologist Jack Reed. Fielder has a couple of new projects in the works. He’s considering coming out next year with a sequel to his best-seller “Colorado 1870-2000,” which contains photos taken from the same vantage points where William Henry Jackson took pictures in the 19th century. Fielder said he has 144 more of such images that didn’t make it in the first book.

He also is planning a book focusing on Colorado’s seasons. It will feature photos taken from 50 of his favorite locations around the state, at four different times of year, “showing people how a place changes from season to season,” Fielder said.While Fielder is always looking ahead to his next trip or project, he said it’s fun for him to thumb through his books and remember past experiences.”I get to enjoy these places more when the photo gets published or printed than when I was there,” he said.As nice as backcountry photography may sound, Fielder often gets consumed by the job of setting up and shooting the photos.”Sometimes you can’t enjoy the moment,” he said.

Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. 516dwebb@postindependent.comFree slideshowJohn Fielder will give a talk and slideshow highlighting his new book, “Mountain Ranges of Colorado,” at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 16, at the Glenwood Springs Branch Library, 413 9th Street. The event is free, and sponsored by the library and Through the Looking Glass bookstore. The store plans to donate 25 percent of sales of Fielder’s books that night to the library, for its book acquisition fund. John Fielder will give a talk and slideshow highlighting his new book, “Mountain Ranges of Colorado,” at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 16, at the Glenwood Springs Branch Library, 413 9th Street. The event is free, and sponsored by the library and Through the Looking Glass bookstore. The store plans to donate 25 percent of sales of Fielder’s books that night to the library, for its book acquisition fund.


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