Chatfield State Park, Extended


Chatfield Sunset. Winter has not yet surrendered its grip on the trees in Chatfield State Park, Littleton, Colorado.

I decided to follow up last week’s post about Chatfield State Park with another so I could share some other images of the lake and its surroundings. If you have been following my blog for a while, you have probably noticed that I like silhouettes and simplified color palettes. The image above certainly qualifies, and looks like a heavily-toned monochromatic image. I had to crop away a bit of the bottom of the image to keep the focus on the trees, which is where I wanted the emphasis. I really enjoy seeing the shapes of trees and this is much easier to do, obviously, if there are no leaves to obscure the branches. Put another way, I like trees that are either dead or dormant, and since spring came late this year to Denver, I had some extra photographic opportunities.

Chatfield Silhouettes. Clouds drift above the trees in Chatfield State Park, Littleton, Colorado.
The little dark area on the bottom left was an annoyance.

I like the big tree in this image, including the way it hangs over the top of the trees on the bottom left and the sort of curlicue that the large branch makes in the bottom right corner. In fact, I liked that curlicue enough that I had to get clever to keep it in the image: I had to distort the image a little—stretching the bottom left corner down—so I could crop out a small dark area without cropping out the curlicue. Here’s the original image:

On one of my outings to this park I brought along my Laowa 9mm f/5.6 W-Dreamer lens. This lens is, I believe, the widest full-frame non-fisheye lens available. I have not used it that often, but it can make some interesting images. It is definitely a lens with a lot of vignetting and I have had the most success using it with the subject in the center of the frame, like this:

Cloudburst. A tree is silhoutted against the wispy clouds above Chatfield State Park, Littleton, Colorado.

It may not look like it, but I was pretty much under this tree. When you are so close to the subject with such a wide angle lens, the background looks like it is much farther away than it is, which was important here to help reduce the prominence of the line of trees in the background.

I also had more images featuring reflections along the lakeshore. This image is in some ways similar to one in last week’s post, but more prominently features an individual tree with the others as more of a supporting cast:

Leader of the Pack. Tree trunks reflect off the shallow waters around the west edge of Chatfield Lake, Littleton, Colorado.

It’s also a somewhat busier image than the ones last week, with a lot more random branches and debris scattered around. Despite the fact that it is not so tidy, I really like the image. I view this image as a less idealized representation of this lake that is a little truer to the experience of being there because it shows some of the clutter. That said, I feel that the trees and their reflections are very strong and overwhelm the bits of debris, so in my mind that clutter just provides a little seasoning. Also, I feel that given how many trees and reflections are in this image, many of them are very well separated and distinct against the water’s reflection of the blue sky and clouds. The faint horizontal line of grasses across the top of the frame also makes a nice subtle counterpoint.

Of course, if we want to upgrade the clutter, there is this image:

Flood Zone. The high waters of Chatfield Lake flood the bases of trees and shrubs, Littleton, Colorado.

A lot of photographers might object to the amount of clutter in this image, but the prominent dark X on the right and the fan-like bundle of branches (trunks?) coming out of the water on the left that almost makes a vertical bow-tie effect with its reflection give the image a surprising amount of structure. I think it works well, and I am always pleased when I can bring some order to a chaotic scene because, in my mind, a more complex scene is more rewarding to look at for a longer period of time.

Here is another example, although perhaps not as busy as the previous image:

Morning Ripples. The morning sun reflects off the shallow waters around the edge of Chatfield Lake, Littleton, Colorado.

I think this image is a nice combination of contrasts, with warm and cool reflections and with large dark trunks and fine grasses. There is also a little bit of thin fog on the water in the background that helps give some soft atmosphere that contrasts with the crisp silhouette and glare on the right hand side.

And finally we’ll consider something a little different before we move on from Chatfield State Park:

Chatfield Cattails. Morning light strikes the edge of cattails along the edge of Chatfield Lake, Littleton, Colorado.

This was a little later in the morning and I love the warm sidelight on the cattails. I also like the composition, with the pair in the top left and the third, leaning aside on a broken stalk: it’s a composition that tells a story, perhaps of victory and defeat. The blurry stalks just behind the three cattails are also nicely rendered, so I can’t complain about the bokeh at 400mm on my Nikkor Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S; it is a really versatile lens. I also like the reflection of the unseen tree on the water: it’s subtle but adds a little depth and visual interest that wouldn’t be there with only plain blue sky reflecting off of the water. It is also a little mysterious because the inverted triangle shape is a somewhat puzzling reflection. Again, I think this is an image that rewards a longer viewing. I will, however, make a confession: there was a fourth cattail in the image that was slightly further away than the others and, consequently, just a touch out of focus. It pretty much ruined the image, so I got rid of it, but I will leave exactly where it was a mystery.

Technical notes. The photographs in this post were taken with a Nikon Z7 and the Nikkor Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S, the Nikkor Z 24-120mm f/4 S, and the Laowa 9mm f/5.6 W-Dreamer. All were processed from RAW in Adobe Lightroom Classic.

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6 responses to “Chatfield State Park, Extended”

  1. Thanks Jim! I like the way you focus on a subject and share different treatments with us.

    • I am glad you enjoy them, Lucy! It is a lot more fun to share them with people than just have them sit on the hard drive, to be sure. Thanks for commenting!

  2. Great images and fascinating comments. I especially like Leader of the Pack and the golden colours of Morning Ripple.

    Your comments about tidiness are interesting. I would not have been troubled by the ‘dark area’ on the silhouettes image. I suspect I would not have noticed it and, if I had, would have thought it was no more than a (not-distracting but grounding) feature of the scene. Wonder why the more noticeable bits and pieces around the tree trunks did not trouble you either!

    • I don’t know, Rob, but little things around the edges of the frame that are barely-in or barely-out are distractions. At least to me.