Morning photo: The hand of man

Not all natural …

Buffalo Mountain from the Frisco Nordic Center at dawn.

FRISCO ā€” As it started to get light Thursday morning I glanced out the kitchen window and noticed a thick layer of low-lying fog over part of Frisco Bay. That seemed a bit unusual since the reservoir has been frozen over for a few weeks, and the fog generally stops forming after the ice thickens up. So after getting my son off to school, I jumped in the car and headed up Highway 9 toward Breckenridge. It didn’t take long to discover the source of the fog. The snow-making machines at the Frisco Nordic Center and tubing hill were going all out, and with an atmospheric inversion in place, the frozen mists from the nozzles were being pushed down and out across the Reservoir.

Mists from snowmaking at the Frisco Nordic Center and Adventure Park hang over landscape near Frisco, Colorado.

As I stomped around in the snow looking for a good photo angle, I realized that many of the winter landscapes I’ve been shooting lately are strongly influenced by human activity. Even though they look like natural scenes, the hand of man is quite evident, staring with Dillon Reservoir, the centerpiece for so many of my images.

Through an iPhone Instagram filter, this image becomes almost semi-abstract.
The mist from Frisco’s snowmaking spread far across Dillon Reservoir Thursday morning, helping to generate a sparkling sundog near Heaton Bay.

The mists in the first few pictures are just the most recent example. Many of my favorite images from the past few weeks are from around the Snake River, between Keystone and Montezuma, and the dirty little secret is, those pictures are shaped by a significant confluence of human impacts. First of all, the stunning blue-green color of the water is in part due to the high concentrations of toxic heavy metals. Secondly, the only reason there is fresh ice to photograph this time of year is because Denver Water releases water from the Montezuma shaft to augment the Snake River to compensate for the depletions resulting from Keystone’s snowmaking. It’s that fresh water running through the valley that forms the fascinating frost crystals that coat the bushes and streams along the river …

Toxic heavy metals add color the Snake River.
The only reason there's still open water on the Snake River is because of fluctuations in the flow due to snowmaking at Keystone.
The only reason there’s still open water on the Snake River is because of fluctuations in the flow due to snowmaking at Keystone.

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