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.
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.
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.
Photo location: Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.
© Copyright 2017 Stephen J. Krieg