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I just returned from the spectacular mountain village of Telluride, Colorado, where the first annual Telluride Photo Festival was held. It was a smashing success! During the week of September 20-26, a couple hundred photographers gathered for a week of photo workshops and seminars, evening presentations, gallery exhibits, and lots of gloriously beautiful shooting in the region’s San Juan Mountains.

Late September and early October in and around Telluride, Colorado, are spectacular, with lots of blue sky and amazing stands of quaking aspens (Populus tremuloides) resplendent in their brilliant yellow fall foliage. The four wheel drive road up to Alta Lakes provides not only spectacular views of the San Juan Mountains and an old mining town but also cuts through dense stands of “quakies”, seen above. Sigma 10-20mm F/4-5.6 EX DC HSM lens. Sigma 77mm Circular Polarizer Filter. Gitzo GT2541EX tripod. © 2010 Dave FitzSimmons

The Telluride Photo Festival was a gathering of many luminaries in outdoor photography, including landscape, wildlife, conservation, adventure, and outdoor commercial photographers. Other pros leading sessions included George Lepp, Robert Glenn Ketchum, Ace Kvale, Bill Ellzey, Kathleen Norris Cook, Rob Haggart, and Tyler Stableford. In addition, Cristina Goettsch Mittermeier and many members of the International League of Conservation Photographers were present.

My exhibit, “Curious Critters,” was featured in the gallery at the historic Sheridan Opera House, the major screening location for the internationally known Telluride film festivals. During the Thursday night Gallery Walk and for the rest of the festival, photographers and townspeople strolled through the gallery, enjoying the twenty-four large format prints of all kinds of animals, all shot against white backgrounds. Some of the crowd favorites were the butterflies, especially the Baltimore Checkerspot, the Gray Treefrog, the Crested Gecko licking its lips, the Blue Jay, the Striped Skunk, the Little Brown Bat, and, one of my favorites, the Lightning Bug just taking off. Just becoming airborne, it looking quite like a twinkled-toed ballerina.

This image of a Gray Treefrog (Hyla versicolor) was one of the two dozen 24”x 36” prints by Sigma Pro Dave FitzSimmons on display during the Telluride Photo Festival. The exhibit, housed in the gallery of Telluride’s historic Sheridan Opera House and sponsored by Sigma, featured a variety of animals shot against white backgrounds. This green-colored specimen, having changed appearance to camouflage among leaves, stands out against whiteness. This allows viewers to take in the amphibian’s shape, colors, and “expression” without distraction. Many people comment on the meditative pose this humble critter struck. Sigma SD 14 camera, Sigma 180mm f/3.5 EX DG IF HSM APO Macro lens. Lastolite Cubelite light tent. © 2010 Dave FitzSimmons

The shots in the exhibit are a tip-of-the-cap to Richard Avedon, who made popular the idea of taking portraits against white backgrounds. Unlike traditional images showing animals in their habitats, the white-background approach allows viewers to focus on subjects without distractions. Enthusiastic viewers remarked how much they liked this alternative way to view wildlife. The exhibit focuses on many common critters that we encounter in our backyards or local parks.

Telluride’s historic Sheridan Opera House housed Dave FitzSimmons’ “Curious Critters” exhibit during the Telluride Photo Festival, September 20-26, 2010. Curious Critters images seen here include the following: Striped Skunk, Eastern Box Turtle, American Kestrel, Southern Flying Squirrel, and Blue Jay. All image in the exhibit were shot with a range of Sigma macro lenses. © 2010 Dave FitzSimmons

The Curious Critters exhibit now travels to Newark, New Jersey, where the exhibit will open on November 5, 2010 at Unique Photo. To see more images in my “Curious Critters” series, check out the slide show on my home page,

Animal Welfare Note: All animals in the Curious Critters exhibit have been handled carefully and not sedated. Some are captive specimens in rehabilitation centers and other educational facilities. Wild animals were returned safely to their habitats.

I also led two macro seminars at the Telluride Photo Festival. During these sessions I talked about creating meaningful close-up shots, best equipment to use, and specialized software such as Helicon Focus for increased depth-of field. My Saturday macro seminar was streamed live on the web. You can watch the full-length video below or go to the following website:

In addition to the festival activities, photographers headed into the mountains to shoot autumn landscapes around Telluride. The aspens were turning blaze yellow, and a nighttime storm on Wednesday created spectacular snow-capped peaks. I particularly enjoyed the 4WD roads up to Alta Lakes and the switchbacks leading up to Bridal Veil Falls, just above the town of Telluride.

Mountain ash (Sorbus scopulina), covered with fire-red berries and bright orange leaves, stands below Bridal Veil Falls. Dropping 365 feet down a cliff just above Telluride, Colorado, the falls is just one of many spectacular scenes in the surrounding San Juan Mountains. Not only did the festival provide excellent learning opportunities, but it also allowed photographers to enjoy the rich beauty of autumn in one of the most beautiful regions of the Rocky Mountains. A four wheel drive road, full of switchbacks, leads to the top of the falls. Sigma 10-20mm F/4-5.6 EX DC HSM lens. Sigma 77mm Circular Polarizer Filter. Gitzo GT2541EX tripod. © 2010 Dave FitzSimmons

A special thanks to Telluride Photo Festival Director Eric Moore, who, with the assistance of Crystal Geise and the support of Telluride’s Ah Haa School for the Arts, created a superlative event. And hats off to Telluride community for making all of us crazy photographers feel oh-so welcome!

For more information about the Telluride Photo Festival, follow the link below:

The twenty-four image Curious Critters exhibits now moves to the Unique Photo gallery in Fairfield, New Jersey. The opening reception is November 5 at 5 PM. I will present a slide program from 5 – 6 PM that night, talking about my latest projects. On November 6 from 10 AM to 3 PM, I will lead a workshop for Unique University, demonstrating how to make your own Curious Critters shots. Part of the workshop will include the opportunity to shoot using my white backdrop setups, namely photographing inside Lastolite light tents. On Sunday, November 7 from 12 PM to 3 PM, I will work with educators on using cameras and digital imaging in their classrooms. For more information, follow the link below to Unique University:

To see more of Dave’s work or for information on bringing the Curious Critters exhibit to your venue or arranging a workshop or seminar with Sigma Pro Dave FitzSimmons, visit

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  1. Dave,
    You have a great shot of Bridal Veil Falls! I enjoyed meeting you at the Telluride Photo Festival.


  2. Nice, I need to make it up to Bridal Falls this autumn!

  3. Wow! I will have to remember this event for possible attendance in the fall of 2012

  4. Amazing shots! I love the pic of the frog that really being very clear and sharp,thanks for sharing about it.