Colorado Photo Destinations

/

When it comes to photo destinations, there are few locations, if any, that are better than Colorado. This Rocky Mountain state is home to some iconic destinations that are very popular with photographers, and there are plenty of unique, hidden gems to discover, as well. As a photographer, I feel so fortunate to live in such a beautiful part of the country! Over the last 6.5 years, I’ve been lucky enough to explore some of the most beautiful placesplaces that serve as perfect backdrops for unforgettable photographs. There are so many to choose from, but here are just a few of my favorite Colorado photo destinations for portrait, family, engagement and wedding photography!

Colorado Photo Destinations
Sapphire Pointe Overlook

Sapphire Point Overlook 

This picturesque spot sits right between Keystone and Breckenridge on Swan Mountain Road, at an elevation of 9,500 feet. The overlook offers a stunning view of Dillon Reservoir, hemmed in by the Gore and Tenmile mountain ranges. Sapphire Point is a day-use area that can be reserved for two-hour blocks for private gatherings. It’s the only designated site where wedding ceremonies are permitted in the Dillon Ranger District! Interested? Reserve a block for your gathering and inquire about rates and session packages here.

The Donovan Pavilion (Vail, CO) 

The Donovan Pavilion is such a special place to capture the moment! For weddings large and small, for meetings, gatherings, or celebrations, anything where you want beautiful views, exceptional service, and memories to last a lifetime.

The space is absolutely beautiful, and perfect to be able to make what you want. The staff is prompt at answering questions and they allow brides and grooms to tour the venue several times to ensure they feel comfortable with all the details. It’s a perfect space for anyone looking for a rustic wedding (at a good value) in Vail.

The Donovan Pavilion

Rocky Mountain National Park 

Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the 10 most visited national parks by National Geographic — and for good reason. This breathtaking space features 415 square miles of natural beauty. It features more than 300 miles of hiking trails to let you explore the sprawling protected area, so you could point your camera in any direction and get a good picture — the park is that amazing!

To get to RMNP, you’ll want to head north through Boulder and Lyons before heading into the mountains. Once you pass through Estes Park, you’re almost there… It’s just a short drive from there to the entrance of this beautiful park. For a price of $35 per vehicle or $20 per person, this awe-inspiring park is worth the small fee!

Rocky Mountain National Park

Boreas Pass Overlook

Perfect for any season, day or night, Boreas Pass is a beautiful drive along the Continental Divide. Stop at the overlook for gorgeous views of Breckenridge, with the resort standing tall behind it. Wildflowers line this road in the summer, fall offers the vibrant colors of the Aspen trees, and photos taken at night above the town are simply magic. (Check for road closures during the winter, or plan to hike if needed!)

Maroon Bells

If you’ve seen a picture of Colorado on Pinterest, there’s a good chance it was of Maroon Bells. And with good reason! It’s a quintessential spot for any list of Colorado Photo Destinations. The peaks tower over the surrounding landscape. and at 14,000 feet, it’s easy to view their magnificence from anywhere. The Maroon Bells are one of Colorado’s most iconic landscapes, and host around 300,000 visitors every year.

To get to Maroon Bells, I recommend taking a bus from Aspen, as there is very limited private vehicle access. The bus picks up at the Aspen Highlands and drops you off right at the Bells. It’ll cost you $5 on weekdays, and $10 on weekends, but the price is worth it for the view of these iconic Colorado Mountains!

Garden of the Gods Park 

Garden of the Gods is a natural landmark in the heart of Colorado Springs (and it happens to be a photographer’s dream). These towering, free-standing red sandstone features grab your attention and refuse to let it go. Outside the park, you can spot birds and trees dotted along the rocks, and even rock climbers from time to time. Inside the park, the north end of Juniper Way Loop gives you a perfect view of the Garden in its full glory.

Garden of the Gods Park

Paint Mines

Stepping into Paint Mines Interpretive Park feels like stepping into an alien landscape. It’s full of colorful clay originally collected by Native Americans in the area to paint. The small, shallow canyons provide unique backgrounds for every photo you take. It’s a textural dream unique to Colorado without classic mountain background! Enjoy your time hiking through the mines as you think about the rich history that this land holds.

Paint Mines

Traveling within my own state is something I’ve definitely taken advantage of over my time in this beautiful place. Just passing through? Be sure to capture your time in this amazing landscape. You’ll be glad you did! Colorado Native? Sometimes getting out of our comfort zone (and trying out new locations) forces us to get creative… that’s why I love exploring this state so much!

Figure Skating Photographer
Engagement Session Garden of the Gods Park
Mountaintop elopement in Colorado

/

A few months ago, I sent a question into one of my favorite podcasts, Creativ Rise. It’s hosted by two Canadian photographers and educators, Joey and Christy, and each week, they encourage readers to text them (really them!) their questions directly. I asked: “How do you create and cultivate an authentic community?” As a freelance photographer, sometimes it’s tough to find a community that you can collaborate with, lean on, and learn from. What I didn’t realize at the time was that just by listening to this podcast, and by sending in my question, I was already learning how to cultivate a creative community.


sarnoldphoto-3

During the past eight months, I’ve spoken a lot about the power of photography education. As I sifted through podcasts, webinars, and courses, I learned that you have to cut through the noise to figure out what works best for you. This helped me set more realistic expectations for how much info to seek out at once, which ultimately helped me concentrate my learning efforts. Creativ Rise is one of the outlets that I’ve continuously sought out, and I was so excited when they hosted their first Instagram Live chat to answer some of the listener questions they’ve received. Not only did they take my question … but they invited me to join them live as their first guest!

 We had such a great conversation, and they had so much advice to share. After kicking off with some questions for me (you can read some of my favs at the end!), we dug into the theme of the question that landed me on the chat.


sarnoldphoto-3

Here are Joel and Christy’s tips for how to find a reliable creative community of people who can cheer you on and challenge you.

1. Start by writing down your three internal needs and three external needs.

“Internal needs could be things like support, balance, and accountability. External needs might be a new website, new camera equipment, or a refined social media content calendar plan.”

2. Prepare your mindset to be ready to walk into something new.

“We either walk into a room and say, “Here I am, come help me feel comfortable,” or we walk into a room, turning heads to make people think, “There they are, and they become magnetic, making others feel welcome.” We are constantly evaluating and checking the vibes in the room or are we the people who are creating those vibes.”

3. Be willing to open the door into your process and think about what you have to offer others.

“The creative community is the most individualized community there is in the workplace. People who are artists oftentimes believe it’s all about their one idea and are not willing to let others in.”

4. When it comes to experience level, keep the group diverse.

Christy: “Something that many creatives do incorrectly is form a group of people who are all at their same level; it should be a healthy mix of people who are above you in business, those who are starting off, and then people at your level. When you have people ahead of you, they help to lift you up and bring a different perspective of wisdom. When you have those who are starting off, you help to pull them up … Lastly, you need someone who is going to lead and take initiative so it doesn’t turn into one big pity party talking about all the things that people struggle with.”

5. Take a leap of faith.

Joey: “Have you ever been at the corner of a street, and the light is red for oncoming traffic, but yet, nobody moves because they are waiting for the walk sign to illuminate? They wait and wait, and then one guy finally takes the initiative to step off the curb and start proceeding forward to the other side of the street. Then, all of sudden, everyone else follows. The analogy ties in with the idea of being willing to step off the curb and be the first to do something bold that everyone else is thinking, but just hasn’t acted on yet.”

So, how do you grow your community of creatives? Just start! Identify your needs, both internal and external. Get ready to open up, not just your creative process, but your personality and your business. Match your gifts and abilities to places where you can make a difference and where you can receive support. Who knows? Your community may even start with a podcast or an Instagram live!

If this article resonated with you, I’d love to hear about it! Leave a comment below or connect with me on Instagram at @sarnoldphoto.


sarnoldphoto-2

 Bonus Content: Sarah in the Spotlight

It was such an honor to join the Creativ Rise team on their first Instagram Live chat. As we were introducing ourselves, I shared that while my photography passion started with a lot of figure skating photos in my hometown Milwaukee, Wisconsin, I’m now a freelancer based in Colorado Springs and specialize in weddings, couples, and portraits. Then Joey and Christy had some thoughtful questions for me:

Christy: What was a highlight of 2020?

Sarah: I’ve been able to sit back and re-evaluate everything that I think I’ve either been doing right, wrong, or needs some refinement. Having all of this time to take these education courses has been the biggest game changer. I also found success in 2020 because I didn’t niche down to only weddings; I was taking on a variety of clientele which helped provide other streams of income for me.

Christy: What was something you bombed in your business?  

Sarah: The first wedding I ever shot, I didn’t know how to use an external flash, but pretended as though I did. The photos were overexposed, and I delivered them in JPG and not RAW. [For non-photographers, this is a big problem. This allows for very little ability to edit colors, brightness, contrast, and all those tiny little pixels in the photograph that we can usually save, fix, or edit, if there is an issue.] It was a bit of a disaster, but I suppose we all have to learn the hard way when it’s the first for everything.

Joey: What is something that you are excited about for 2021?

Sarah: Being able to understand how to set realistic goals. In the past my thoughts were often “this is just on the side and a freelance job” without a clear direction of a plan. Now, I feel those steps are better defined to make it more than just something on the side.

Want to see more? Check out the full episode!