Fall enters with a whisper. It's almost something you can sense in the breeze. The first leaves to fall do so seemingly in secret. They drop from the tips of branches onto a green forest floor, often out of sight for most visitors.
Soon enough, the first patches of color appear on mountainside aspen stands. Those who make the effort to reach them can be rewarded with a rich tapestry of gold and green against an increasingly turbulent sky.
Under the canopy, forests in full sunlight take on a golden glow. To stand alone among the aspens is an experience that will stay with you.
The timing of fall varies from year to year, slope to slope, and even tree to tree. A keen eye and a patient mind is required to photograph each area at its best.
Mountain weather can be changeable (to put it mildly) at the best of times, but as the cool breeze becomes a cold wind and snow lingers on high ground, the forest canopy changes from day to day. The transitory nature of the natural world (and indeed life) is inescapable to the onlooker at this point. By the time peak colors arrive, some areas are already bare, and the leaves form a golden carpet over trails and undergrowth alike. Long after the 'peak', there are still gems to be found in the high country, such as this patch of fiery color in an otherwise barren canopy.
The last of the colors and the first snowfall often coincide. The next morning, leaves fall like rain onto a pure white reminder of the season that will surely follow.
I shot segments of video as I wandered the forest throughout this latest fall season, so you can experience the sights and sounds as I did:
Finally, to illustrate the rapid change of seasons in the high country, use the slider on the image below to compare two photos of Lake San Cristobal from the same shooting position.