Colorado

Put the city in your rear view mirror

Before this month is out, we'll all know a lot more about Denver. It's the setting for the Democratic National Convention (Aug. 25-28). While images of the Mile High City fill our TV screens, you may want to try an "unconventional" approach, focusing on nature and old-time charm -- out of town. Here are three photogenic destinations that are just day trips from Denver:

1. Victorian West. The authentic backdrops of 19th-century mining towns await an hour west of Denver. Two-thirds of Georgetown (pop. 1,360) is restored Victorian buildings -- nearly 200 in total. Curling up its nearby mountain valley is a steam locomotive on the Georgetown Loop Railroad. Take the interstate instead of riding -- the train only makes a brief stop -- to Silver Plume (pop. 195), for desolate ghost-town images of empty mills and mines carved into cliff faces. Try unusual angles, such as a landscape through a window (as photographer David Morgan did, above). Main Street, a photo gold mine of old buildings, runs north of the highway across from the train line. Don't miss a field of wildflowers near the Sopp & Truscott Bakery.

2. Red Rocks. Just 15 miles west of Denver, Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre is famous for its concerts -- this month, acts from James Taylor to Jethro Tull to My Morning Jacket play nighttime shows in the red sandstone theater. But during the day there are amazing photo ops amid the crimson, craggy, natural formations that stand up to 300 feet tall, in the park surrounding the theater. Take one of the numerous trails, such as the one leading straight up to the adjacent mountains, for a sky-high perspective.

Early morning and late afternoon offer the best light to capture sandstone cast in a fiery glow. But mountains bordering the park to the west throw a shadow over the bowl and lower regions of the park as the sun sets, so don't arrive too late. (For info: www.redrocksonline.com; 720-865-2494)

3. Mt. Evans. Twisted, gnarled bristlecone pines, the oldest trees on earth, make for dramatic abstractions and landscapes. Hard to find elsewhere, you can shoot hundreds on Mt. Evans. The most dazzling of Colorado's "Fourteeners" (mountains higher than 14,000 feet), Mt. Evans is also closest to Denver (34 miles west), in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. Visit Echo Lake, a basin of deep blue set 10,000 feet above sea level, just off the Mt. Evans Scenic Byway. Then turn south on Highway 5 to the Mt. Goliath Research Natural Area, with easy hiking and many bristlecones. Try shooting black-and-white to bring out the texture of the exposed wood. Further south on Highway 5 is Summit Lake. In its craggy rocks, you're likely to spot bighorn sheep and mountain goats, especially in the morning and evening. (For info: www.mtevans.com; 303-567-3000)

For more about visiting Denver, contact www.denver.org; 303-892-1112.

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