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Colorado in Black and White

Colorado photographer John Fielder is back with a new book capturing the state's beauty "without the distraction of color"



Photography by John Fielder

John Fielder is back with a book showcasing our favorite state, and this time it's not what you'd expect.

Fielder has been capturing the beauty of Colorado for 40 years, photographing its sunsets, wildlife, landscapes, rivers and more. The photographer, teacher, environmentalist and author has traveled the state to document the breathtaking scenery around us. He created Colorado's best-selling book, Colorado: 1870 – 2000, juxtaposing historic photographer William Henry Jackson’s images of the 19th-Century landscape with those of today. He is also the photographer of more than 40 photography coffee table books, guide books, and children’s books. 

Fielder's newest book, Colorado: Black on White, is a visual experience of The Centennial State stripped down to blacks, whites and subtle tones of gray. Fielder edited 230 color images from his life's work in Colorado, highlighting its shapes, textures, lines and edges instead of focusing on its colors. In the book, Fielder tells stories of his life in the wilderness and gives tips to the burgeoning photographer like how to take the best photos and where to find the state's most beautiful spots. 

How did you get started in photography?

It was my passion for nature and the joy I feel when outdoors, and an interest in fine art painting, that led me to photography. I moved to Colorado from North Carolina in 1972 immediately after college graduation. In 1973, suspicious that acrylics and canvas would be problematic on the trail, I rented a 35mm film camera and headed for Colorado’s Sangre de Cristo Mountains to test my creativity. I failed miserably with the first rolls of slides, but stuck with it. What I had seen with my eyes did not necessarily translate onto film. However, I persevered, improved, and continue to improve today45 years later.

What is it about Colorado that inspires your work?

From the very beginning of my forays into the Colorado wilderness, I was enthralled by the high country. That is, the alpine ecosystem above the trees. Infinite views, endless wildflowers, waterfalls and fourteen thousand-foot peaks, all reflecting in countless tarns sealed the deal! I love Colorado’s Great Plains, its West Slope redrock river canyons and ubiquitous bucolic ranch lands, but it's life with the marmots, pikas and mountain goats that makes me most happy.

What inspired you to make this book of black and white photos?

One of my two photographer heroes is the black-and-white photographer Ansel Adams. The other is Eliot Porter, the in-color photographer counterpart to Adams. Foremost, Adams used his photography and voice to promote the preservation of nature and biodiversity 4 billion years of the evolution of life on Earth. I love black-and-white photography, but historically have chosen to represent Colorful Colorado in color. Nevertheless, I know that images can be even more powerful in black and white without the “distraction” of color. One’s eye gravitates to shapes, edges and textures, and this can make the landscape, even wildlife, even more captivating.

What do you hope Colorado: Black on White inspires in those who read it?

There are 230 images in the book, the result of editing my life’s work down to those photos that best converted from color to black and white. “Read” is a good word choice. Each of the final 230 photographs evoke a memory or lesson. Included in the book are 30,000 words of text that recount stories of life in the wilderness, advise travelers where many of the places can be found and that help photographers improve their own skills. I hope that the book reinforces just how lucky we all are to live in Colorado!

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