Looking out across the endless prairie to the horizon, I could tell it was going to be a delightful sunrise.
Tufts of clouds already were picking up faint pinks and oranges as my Honda Civic flew over the rutted country road to the Paint Mines Interpretive Park.
I admit, I was late. As much as I like planning, researching and preparing for a photographic adventure, getting out of bed at 4:45 a.m. is always a struggle.
And so I raced. Down the dirt road, into the parking lot, onto the trail, over the edge of a cliff and into the Paint Mines.
It was overwhelming at first. From looking at the area on the satellite version of Google maps and comparing that to online guides, I knew where I wanted to be. Unfortunately, I was nowhere close.
So with the sun rising quickly, I ran to the first massive geological formation I could find, pulled out some filters and started shooting.
I find that a lot of photography is about giving yourself every opportunity to make a good picture, and then getting lucky.
At the Paint Mines, I got lucky.
The sunrise was more spectacular than I could have imagined. While the clouds were changing colors in front of and above me, the sun slowly was painting the rocks behind me in orange.
It's discovering moments such as these, in places as stunning as the Paint Mines, that makes capturing Colorado in photographs such a rewarding experience.
Whether it's the Garden of the Gods under a blanket of fresh snow, a summer thunderstorm brewing behind Pikes Peak or a hillside covered in golden aspens, every season breathes new photographic life into all the landmarks that fill our backyard.
And the best part about these landmarks is that it doesn't take much to turn them into postcard-worthy images.
A little planning and a lot of determination quickly push average photos above and beyond the rest.
There are certain times of the day that are more suited for photographs than others, weather that looks more stunning and angles that better showcase the grandeur and scale of these natural wonders.
I try my best to consider all of these factors when shooting this state's landscapes. The more unique of a position in which I can put myself, the more I, as someone who sees Colorado through a lens almost every day, am proud of the end results.
So I encourage you to wake up early this summer, get out in the rain or up on a hill you've never climbed. Grab your iPhone or DSLR, a friend or your dog, and add a photo adventure to your weekend plans.
Get out and open your shutters to this diverse backyard playground and make it uniquely yours.