Chatfield State Park


Near and Far. The late afternoon sun kisses the top of a row of trees along Chatfield Lake, Littleton, Colorado.

Since my wife and I work past either end of Chatfield State Park and we almost always commute together, I drive up and down the west edge of the park many times each week. The singular feature of the park is Chatfield Lake (officially Chatfield Reservoir, since it is an artificial lake). Since I have not yet reached my first autumn in Colorado, that is the only season I have yet to see, but the trees and lake are beautiful in all conditions and I am sure fall color will only be an improvement. There are many trees along the lakeshore and, in truth, growing out of the lake proper. Since there is a sizable dam along the northeastern edge of the reservoir, the water level must be deliberately managed and it seems to me that they are keeping the water level pretty high. I do not know whether they have taken advantage of the wet winter (and spring and summer) to increase their water stores for a not-rainy day or whether these levels are typical. Either way, the presently-offshore trees make for interesting photographs:

Flooded Picket. A narrow row of trees emerges from the waters of Chatfield Lake, Littleton, Colorado.

I have been down to the lakeshore several times to photograph, and the images in this post were taken on an early morning in late March and a late afternoon in early April. The winter was unusually (so the locals say) long and cold and the trees really didn’t leaf out until well into May, so still-bare trees are featured in this post. The lower trunks of the trees sticking out of the water, and their reflections, work nicely as tighter crops:

Flooded Grove. Tree trunks emerge from the shallows of Chatfield Lake, Littleton, Colorado.
Chatfield Reflections. The reflections of tree trunks shimmer on the surface of Chatfield Lake, Littleton, Colorado.

In Tucson I had the pleasure of seeing hundreds upon hundreds of spectacular sunsets over my years of commuting, but generally just had to be discontent watching the show. Chatfield Lake is kind of similar: every so often there are great photography conditions—mist, snow, frost, fog, rain, rainbows, light, color, and so on—but I am busy being a cameraless commuter, doomed to remember far more images than I preserve.

Down near the lake’s edge, it is a veritable quagmire and rubber boots are essential. Mine, however, were uninsulated and even with warm socks, the cold mud really made my feet uncomfortable. I am pretty certain that Chatfield State Park will be a regular venue for me going forward, so I bought some insulated rubber boots to be prepared for the fall color and the subsequent frozen winter.

Chatfield Shallows. Trees and grasses emerge from the shallow edge of Chatfield Lake, Littleton, Colorado.

On one of my morning visits I decided to try a little intentional camera motion (commonly known as ICM) which I had some success with in the poplar groves in Spain a month-and-a-half earlier. The Chatfield trees are neither as straight nor as regular as those, but the light was better and I like the result:

Tiger Thicket. The early morning sun lights up the tree trunks in Chatfield State Park, Littleton, Colorado.

This image was taken at 260mm, ISO 64, f/8, and 1/125; the rate at which I vertically panned was, of course, unrecorded.

Technical notes. The six photographs in this post were taken with a Nikon Z7. The fifth, Chatfield Shallows, was taken with the Nikkor Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S; the others were taken with the Nikkor Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S. All were processed from RAW in Adobe Lightroom Classic.

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4 responses to “Chatfield State Park”

  1. A wonderful collection of photographs with an excellent narrative to accompany them.
    This style could become your signature!