One Tree's Fall Glory

November 05, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

Cottonwood tree in fall colors, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.2017_CO-5510Cottonwood tree in autumn glory, Mesa Verde National Park.

While driving the main highway through Mesa Verde National park on a clear, sunny late October morning, I saw a lone Cottonwood tree at the downhill side of the road. It was the only one of its kind in that area of the park, high up near the North Rim of the mesa.

And it was glowing with its leaves turned to bright yellow autumn glory.

Cottonwood fall foliage composition against a perfect Colorado blue sky, Mesa Verde National Park.2017_CO-5514Cottonwood fall foliage composition against a perfect Colorado blue sky.

I found a sufficiently wide pullout spot, stopped the car and walked the short distance along the shoulder of the road.

Cottonwood trees normally grow in flood plains. Down in stream beds where the water is. It is a water loving tree. Where there is a cottonwood tree, even in the desert, there is water somewhere below within reach of its deep root system. So what was this lonely tree doing way up here on the slope? It must have been a spot where the road funnels enough water into a small catch basin.

Cottonwood tree fall foliage colors in Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado2017_CO-5512Cottonwood fall colors backlit by the sunlight and the deep shadow of the far ridge.

Whatever it was doing there, it was relatively young and obviously very healthy. With plenty of unseen water, and towering above the shrub-like Gambel Oak brush land around it on the steep mountain hillside, it had all the sunlight it could possibly want.

As I walked around the uphill side of the tree, I made several photos of the shining leaves being backlit by the midmorning sunlight. It's all about the angle of the light, as to whether you want the colors lit up or not, since leaves are translucent, not opaque.

I most liked how the far ridge was still in shadow, providing a nearly black background for the lower branches. So I isolated one cluster of leaves to give them their spotlight in the sun.

Cottonwood tree foliage in fall colors, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.2017_CO-5516Cottonwood foliage, fall colors, against shadow.

Photo location: Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.

© Copyright 2017 Stephen J. Krieg

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