Wildflowers heart of photographer’s exhibit
Steamboat Springs photographer Steve West’s home is filled with brilliant images of white bog orchids, wild geraniums and high alpine columbine. The images of petals and leaves are magnified tenfold and more, yet they retain the most minute botanical details.
These are photographs West took during years of studying Routt County wildflowers, and along with spectacular panoramic images from across the county, they are the heart of a new exhibit that opens today at Sleeping Giant Gallery in downtown Steamboat.
“They’re just kind of miraculous little things — especially when you get down close,” West said of the plant life he photographs.
Of the miniature high alpine columbines he has captured on film, West said they remind him of porcelain. He said the delicate petals in his sunflowers intentionally capture a feeling of motion as they are frozen whipping in the wind.
“I feel like I’m more artistic and impressionistic than literal,” West said. “Focus is not always of concern to me.”
Many of West’s photographs have a hard focus on the smallest detail in a single leaf or flower that leaves the rest of the plant and the background blurred, if not completely fuzzy.
“It makes you wonder what’s back there, doesn’t it?” West mused while looking at a close-up shot of a white bog orchid growing in a marshy area that appears only as a brilliant green haze.
West said he also “has a thing” for dead trees. His exhibit includes a series of stark photographs of tree trunks and dead stumps that appear to have almost humanistic attributes in silhouette. The photographer said he has spent a lot of time capturing his eerie images of trees left standing after a 100-year-old fire on Farwell Mountain in North Routt County.
West said his goal is to reproduce his photographs as accurately as possible. He shoots on slide film, scans the slides and makes digital adjustments before making his archival prints.
Nature photography has been a favorite pastime throughout his life, said the veteran leader of snowmaking for the Steamboat Ski Area. Even when all his equipmentwas stolen in a burglary a few years ago, it didn’t stop him from retooling and pursuing his nature photography dreams.
The fruits of nearly seven years of West’s photography will be on display at Sleeping Giant Gallery through Sept. 2. The exhibit opens with an artist’s reception from 6 to 8 p.m. today.
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