Photographing the Yankee Girl Mine, Red Mountains, CO

The Yankee Girl Mine is arguably the most photographed mine in Colorado.  It is south of Ouray and north of Silverton in the Red Mountain Mining District on highway 550 (known as the Million Dollar Highway).  If you stop at the Scenic Overlook above the Idarado Mining Complex, you will see the Red Mountains and the headframe of the mine.  However, to get there you will need to find Country Road 31 and use your 4×4 to drive over to the mine.  CR 31 is a class two dirt road and not that difficult, and it will take 15-20 minutes to drive through it, but you will get a great reward along the way – the Yankee Girl.

I wish I could tell you there are a bunch of compositions, but I think there are only a few.  The photo above was shot from behind the mine facing north.  We were there around noon and with this composition, Mary was able to get the mine well lit and used her infrared camera to capture the clouds and Mount Sneffels mountains.

The photo below was shot from in front of the mine facing south with the Red Mountains behind it.  Again, because of infrared, Mary was able to get a good exposure.

With my regular Canon 5D Mark II, facing the mine was a difficult exposure problem because it was back-lit in the noon time sun.  This was the perfect situation to use high dynamic range (see my blog on HDR) and make multiple exposures to capture the highlights and lowlights of the scene and combine them later.  The wind was not too bad, so I did not get a lot of ghosting.  I can bring out so much more detail in the wood in the HDR images.

Here is my best single exposure photo. Which do you like better?

So, Mary and I are going back to Ouray in the Fall and we are already planning how we will photograph the mine again.  This was the kind of trip where we did not get up for sunrise and stay out for sunset.  Given the shorter daylight hours in the Fall and the lower angle of the sun, we are quite excited for another chance to hang out with the Yankee Girl.  To see more of our photos, please go to www.pamphotgraphy.com.

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