Silverton, Colorado Photography: Images of a Weathered Mining Town

September 09, 2013  •  7 Comments


hiwheel bicycle at Olde Tyme Photography studio in Silverton, Colorado. Silverton, Colorado - Hi-Wheel Bicycle at Olde Tyme Photography Storefront Crop "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 mm1/125ISO 640 Weathered rainbow colored paint at The Outlook, a retail store in the mining town of Silverton, Colorado.  Silverton, Colorado - Rainbow Colored Siding
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 mm1/250ISO 400 
Weathered door and siding of an abandoned building, Silverton, Colorado. Silverton, Colorado - Weathered Siding 2
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 mm1/160ISO 800 Boarded windows and weathered siding at an abandoned building in historic SIlveton, Colorado. Silverton, Colorado - Boarded Windows Building B&W
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 mm1/160ISO 800 
Hotel in Silverton, Colorado, an old mining town in the Colorado Mountains.  Silverton, Colorado - Hotel
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 mm1/250ISO 400 Rustic signage of the Olde Tyme Photography studio in historic Silveton, Colorado.  Silverton Colorado Olde Tyme Photography small
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 mm1/160ISO 640
Marcus W. Reinkensmeyer


Go in September. The train still runs but ALOT less as the tourism time is over. Trees start to change to yellow and the town is A LOT less busy giving to more opportunities for pictures. If you go in mid summer. Just get up before the train arrives.
Marcus Reinkensmeyer(non-registered)
Claud: Many thanks.
Nice lines on all these pictures!
Marcus Reinkensmeyer(non-registered)
My sincere thanks for your thoughtful comments. I have to agree with Eli - The Million Dollar Drive is absolutely amazing!
Eli Vega(non-registered)
Old weathered towns make for great photography. I've been to Silverton--nice town. And the "Million Dollar Highway" north, between Silverton and Ouray, Colorado is absolutely awesome, especially in winter and autumn.

Good work there Marcus!

Eli Vega, Colorado
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