"Genius without education is like silver in the mine." - Benjamin Franklin (1706 - 1790)
Arriving in Silverton, Colorado (elevation: 9,308 feet), I was initially dismayed by a seeming dearth of photographic opportunities. Nestled in the San Juan Mountains, this historic mining surely promised to be an ideal location for some classic Southwestern photos. Instead, the town was bustling with large crowds of tourists and a highly commercial business district.
NIKON D800E, f/7.1 @ 58 mm, 1/125, ISO 640
Cars lined the streets, detracting from the rustic quality of this historic old town, founded in 1885. The buildings were a mixed bag, some appearing authentic and others freshly painted in modern colors. Ditto for the signage and fixtures: vestiges of the Wild West amidst modern day retail. Still, the sights and sounds of the old Durango - Silverton train helped a bit, harkening back to slower times.
NIKON D800E, f/16 @ 42 mm, 1/250, ISO 400
The "problem," of course, was all in my mind's eye. After an invigorating mountain photo shoot in Hermosa Valley that morning, I was still thinking in wide angle view - looking for uncluttered streets and uninhabited buildings, with Silverton Mountain (elevation: 11,800 feet) as a dramatic backdrop.
NIKON D800E, f/9 @ 32 mm, 1/160, ISO 800
After a bit of moping around, I concluded that there must be something to shoot (no pun intended) in this touted western town. What first caught my eye was a vast wall of peeling paint on the weathered siding of The Lookout souvenir store. Badly faded by the sun, the rainbow paint colors were extraordinary: psychedelic purple, teal green and turquoise blue. I photographed the wall straight on, fascinated by the texture of the exposed wood and the interplay of crazy colors.
NIKON D800E, f/11 @ 32 mm, 1/160, ISO 800
After a quick lunch, I returned to this same wall for more of the same. Now, at last, I was noticing photo ops galore in the dilapidated doorways, boarded-up windows and rusting metal structures of this
amazing old town.
My favorite photos of the day were those of brokendown doors and decaying wood at an abandoned building on the edge of the business district. Appropriately, the Professor Shutterbugs Olde Tyme Portrait
Parlour store front was one of the most authentic, complete with a hi-wheel bicycle resting on the front porch.
NIKON D800E, f/9 @ 40 mm, 1/250, ISO 400
As if all of this wasn't rewarding enough, the Silverton images have taken on a whole new look and feel in black and white prints. Some seem especially well suited for sepia tone printing, further "aged" with a bit of antique finish.
So, my first impressions of Silverton proved all wrong and I once again stand humbled by my own narrow thinking. In photography and the arts, I'm repeatedly reminded that experiences are largely bound or expanded by our personal sense of reality - in the moment. Slowly, but surely, the learning continues, as the sound of the Durango - Silverton train whistle echoes in my head.
NIKON D800E, f/8 @ 70 mm, 1/160, ISO 640
Marcus W. Reinkensmeyer