As a landscape and nature photographer, I enjoy traveling to new locations and exploring unfamiliar territory. I am always in search of interesting scenes, compositions and light. Living near Denver, CO provides me with great mountain photo opportunities within an hour or two drive.

There are also plenty of beautiful landscape photo opportunities in nearby states if I’m taking a multi-day road trip. However, it can be challenging to find the time to get to these outer-lying destinations. That is why it is important for me to have a few nearby locations to practice at.

Local locations

While stay-at-home restrictions were in place during the initial phase of the pandemic, I spent time exploring a few local parks within 15 minutes from my home. I came across interesting compositions that I hadn’t previously taken the time to photograph. Now that travel restrictions have been lifted, I find myself revisiting these nearby locations frequently. They provide a convenient way to get out and practice my photography skills when I am unable to get away for longer photo journeys. 

Changes in seasons, weather, and time of day present opportunities for creativity and variety in my photos from these places. I often experiment with different focal lengths to capture large grand landscapes as well as smaller intimate landscape scenes. In addition to my standard color Nikon Z7 II, I always bring along my infrared converted Nikon Z5 camera for added variety. Summer wildflowers provide a great opportunity to experiment with my macro and Lensbaby Velvet 85 lenses.  

Daniels Gate Park — Castle Pines, CO

One of the locations that I frequently visit is a park in Castle Pines, about a 12-minute drive from my home. Along a two-mile stretch of road, there are several pullouts to park and walk along a well-maintained trail.

There are several interesting subjects and compositions along this stretch. They include large open vistas, pine trees, scrub oak, mountain backgrounds, a windmill, a wooden fence and a large farmhouse. There is also a herd of bison on private property that can be photographed. 

I watch the weather forecasts closely so I can identify potential opportunities for clouds, rainstorms, colorful sunrises/sunsets or snow.  Our weather here in Colorado changes quickly so I also keep an eye on the sky from my home throughout the afternoon.

I will occasionally make a last-minute decision to get out for sunset if the right conditions are present. Just a few days ago the morning forecast showed several inches of snow, so I woke up before sunrise and captured several unique winter images.  

Three pine trees

Nearly every time I visit this local park, I go to a particular section of the path that has three distinct trees.  I always practice shooting from different angles and create different compositions here. I have developed a portfolio of unique images under various seasons and conditions all from within 20 yards of each other.  

Return to the same location

For those landscape and nature photographers interested in improving their overall outdoor photography skills, I highly recommend researching nearby parks and open space areas for interesting scenes that can be revisited often.

Be sure to return during all seasons of the year at different times of the day. Pay close attention to weather forecasts to take advantage of unique conditions. Experiment with different lenses and capture a variety of large vistas as well as close intimate landscape scenes.

I have found that frequently photographing the same location is a great way to become more creative.