Rustic Elegance In Southern Colorado | Active Light Photography | Photo Tours to Hidden Destinations, Anasazi Ruins
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I was riding shotgun with an eye for rural scenery when the gently rolling fields and Rocky Mountain backdrop told me ‘full stop’. “I really like that ranch house and the wheel line sprinklers. Pull over right… there.”

Paxton Ranch outside Durango, Colorado

People have farmed and ranched in southern Colorado for hundreds of years. This scatters irrigation ditches, stone granaries, barns, and wheel sprinklers across yellowed pastures. Add a mountain backdrop and you have incredible photography.

I try to work under the radar, but I can be a photographic spectacle, especially in these days of tiny digital point-and-shoots. I’m usually the only guy with one or two pro cameras and two or three lenses. Sometimes this can help.

I took the shot I’d seen from the highway and was looking for different compositions when a pickup from the ranch next door drove down a long driveway. The driver started talking to my wife about what we were doing there. When he discovered we were photographing his neighbor’s ranch, his reaction was, “Why not shoot mine instead? Come on down!”

And that’s how I captured close-ups of frame buildings and machinery on the Paxton Ranch. Dan Paxton talked with my wife Pat while I photographed in great autumn afternoon light, and appreciated rural friendliness I was unused to in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The town of Durango was a regional processing and transportation hub for gold and silver ore in the late 1800s and early twentieth century. The Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad Company planned and laid out the town in 1879 as a depot for ore smelting. The town got its own grand hotel in 1887, the Strater. This elegant Victorian lodging is still open and comfortable today.

Strater Hotel room interior

We stayed at the Strater when we got to Durango. The tourist Durango and Silverton steam railroad runs just west of it. When the train whistle blows before departure, you can almost imagine yourself in another century.

Even if you don’t stay at the Strater, have a meal at the hotel’s Mahogany Restaurant. Everything is tastefully spiced, and the dessert choices will almost make you wish you’d skipped dinner.

See all the pictures here.