THE MOUNTAINS ARE CALLING
Ignite your sense of adventure and reconnect with nature.
Soft-spoken 39-year-old German transplant and professional photographer Lars Leber likes to try his luck. That’s because his subject matter – the electric colors that occur only at sunrise and sunset and bleed across the usually dusty red sandstone Colorado landscape – is perhaps one of the most elusive things you could try to capture on camera. Right up there with Big Foot or the Loch Ness Monster. Still, he goes out daily, hiking into remote locations in the Garden of the Gods, attempting to get that perfect shot despite the variables that often prevent these colors from occurring: weather (he has every weather app on his phone known to man), the clouds not being just right to reflect the color, or simply not being in the right location. We sit down with him to get inside his work – and his head.
How did you first get into photography?
“I was introduced to photography as a child because my parents loved traveling. We took at least two vacations a year to various notable cities, including several in America, like San Francisco, San Diego, New York City, Boston, Washington, DC. But my parents never took photos of our trips, so I started doing so, to remember them by. Eventually, I upgraded to a nicer camera, and I was hooked from there.”
How did you end up in Colorado Springs?
“I went to the Colorado Technical University from 2001 to 2004 and got my bachelor’s degree in science in electronic business. I returned home for a few years, but I knew that this was where I wanted to be, so I got a green card and returned in 2007.”
What do you love so much about the location?
“I grew up skiing in Austria, and I love mountains. The mountains here in Colorado are a draw. But I also love the other aspects of the outdoor recreation here, like hiking, backpacking, camping, fishing – I didn’t have that as accessible to me in Germany. Also, Colorado Springs is roughly the same size as my hometown of Wuppertel (roughly 60,000 people), so it has the same feel to me – not too big, not too small.”
When did you start photographing the Garden of the Gods?
“Around 2012, when I started my photography Facebook page. I was working a job at Test Technology that allowed me to leave work early to take sunset photos here in town. In the years that followed, I started to spend more and more time on photography that, finally, I left my job in April 2016, and I’ve been doing this full time since. When I’m not taking photos for myself, I lead workshops for all levels of photographers. I also sell calendars of my photos and prints.”
What is the hardest part about getting these shots?
“The fickleness of nature. Sometimes, I only have a few seconds to a couple minutes to get that just-right shot before the sun moves and the colors disappear. I could be out every day for four weeks, then on day 25 or so, I finally get that nice shot that makes it all worth it.”
Do you have a favorite location in the Garden of the Gods to shoot?
“I really like the Palmer Trail. It’s the moderate three-mile hike with a 250-foot rise. There always tends to be few people on it, plus, the higher elevation gives a nice view over the rock formations.”
What has been your craziest experience shooting here?
“I was at home with my fiancée on a summer evening when a lighting storm suddenly ripped through. I wanted to get a shot of it, so she and I hopped into my car and headed to an overlook on Rampart Range. I set up my camera in the car and put the lightning trigger on – it basically senses the ultraviolet light before the bolt, so you have a much better chance of getting a shot of it. I got the shot, but the thunder was so powerful, it shook the car. My fiancée wanted to get out of there.”
Do you doctor your photos at all…to get such vibrant colors like that?
“People ask me that a lot. While I’ll do things in Photoshop to lighten the foreground of some of my shots, that’s really it. The crazy colors you see in my photographs were really there at those fleeting moments of sunrise and sunset. I just do the hunting to track them down.”