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Jason J. Hatfield

3 Ways to Capture CNM’s Magnificent Displays

From easels to iPhones, here's how you can capture the beauty of Colorado National Monument.

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With an Easel

Aptly named Artists Point has long been a preferred place for painters to pick up their palettes. Perched at 6,200 feet, this butte leans out into Monument Canyon, giving creatives broad vistas of stone pillars like the Coke Ovens as well as of the Grand Mesa and the Book Cliffs’ far-off faces. A short trail leads away from the main pull-off area and offers a bit more solitude (and plenty of flat ground) for inspired brushstrokes. In fact, past entries into CNM’s annual plein-air contest (this year, from September 27 to October 4) were created in this very spot.

With a Smart Phone

You don’t need a professional camera to create stunning sunrise and sunset shots. The low-hanging sun does the work for you by lighting up the Book Cliffs and the Grand Mesa in rose gold hues. Make sure you’re set up at least 30 minutes before official sunrise and sunset times so you don’t miss the full range of color. Stake out a spot at the Coke Ovens, Grand View, or Red Canyon overlooks at dawn for excellent perspectives on the sun cresting the Grand Mesa and scattering its rays. Book Cliffs View is a popular sunset spot, but nearby Window Rock provides similar panoramas of the Book Cliffs afire with evening glow—and fewer potential photo-bombers. Not getting quite the exposure you want? If you have an iPhone, lock a focus by holding your thumb on the screen; then, once it’s set, adjust the exposure by sliding your finger up or down.

With a Tripod and a Long Exposure

Capturing the Milky Way means venturing into pro territory (and requires more than a smartphone). That’s why we tapped local lensman Jason J. Hatfield, who took the images for this feature, for some night-sky photography advice. What you’ll need: a modern DSLR or mirrorless camera; a tripod; and a wide lens with a fast aperture. The Milky Way is visible spring, summer, and fall but changes orientation and the time of night at which it appears; use an app like the Photographer’s Ephemeris or PhotoPills to plan accordingly. (Also: You want to avoid light from a bright moon, so aim for when it is below the horizon or about one week before or after a new moon.) Consider a location with something interesting in the foreground, like the striking rock formations at Book Cliffs View, which Hatfield also chose to avoid light pollution from Fruita and Grand Junction.

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