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Bryan Clark: Exploring Mountains and Poetry (Colorado)

Photographer and poet Bryan Clark in the Rocky Mountains - Happier Place

It’s breathtaking how Bryan Clark captures the beauty, atmosphere and essence of mountain landscapes through photography and poetry. We discovered that his passion and process are just as fascinating and inspiring!

Bryan Clark’s beautiful landscape photography came to our attention on Instagram about a year ago. Drawn in by his stunning photos of a few of our own Happier Places in Fort Collins (e.g., the Cache la Poudre River, North Shields Pond, and Horsetooth Reservoir), we asked if we could feature one of his pictures in our Instagram gallery. Since then he became the first “stranger” to use the #HappierPlace hashtag and the first winner of our monthly giveaways; and there probably hasn’t been a #HappierPlace Instagram Favorites of The Month post that didn’t feature one of his nature photographs.

When we noticed that Bryan had begun to add captivating haikus to his photos and realized they were his own, we knew it was time to get to know the artist, his motivation and his process better. We are so pleased he was willing to answer our questions and hope you find his interview and creations (or recreations, as he calls them) as fascinating and inspiring as we do!

Trees against colorful sky in Fort Collins. Photo by Bryan Clark.

Strike confidently,
Like lions in the grassland,
Clawing through everything.

Although born in Oklahoma City, Bryan Clark has been living mostly in Colorado – aside from a short stint in Flagstaff, Arizona. He grew up in Elizabeth, a small town just south of Denver. He then attended college in Gunnison, which he considers one of the best places for outdoor exploration. (We plan on sharing posts from that area soon, featuring the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and Curecanti National Recreation Area.) Since 2002, Bryan Clark has been living in Fort Collins, about an hour north of Denver.

What do you do?

I grew up in Colorado, and I’ve spent my whole life exploring its mountains. My activity of choice is mountaineering. The highest mountains in Colorado are over 14,000 feet high, otherwise known as the 14ers. There are 54 of them, and I’ve climbed them all, some of them multiple times. But I climb the 13,000 ft. peaks too, and any peak that I think will have a great view or be a good challenge.

In recent years, I’ve discovered a love for landscape photography. This activity has been an adventure for sure, and I’m always practicing to get better. One challenge that I’ve taken up with my images is to marry them with poetry. For the time being, I’ve picked the haiku.

Snow and water in the mountains photographed by Bryan Clark.

Warm winter garments,
Safe and comfy from the chill,
The snow soft and still.

Why do you do what you do?

My place of Zen is definitely in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. I grew up here, and I’m still happiest here. I think the beach is great and I’d visit any time I could. But I’m a mountain person at heart. Exploring the hills recharges my batteries, so to speak. It’s a great physical challenge to hike up mountain ridges. The views of distant ranges and valleys from a summit are amazing. It’s also a chance to connect with nature.

The mountains can be serious and soberingly dangerous. Yet they also provide opportunities for play. I believe that the mixture of these two things are good for perspective and the soul.

When I was younger, my focus was simply on scaling the mountains and finding fun ways to travel through them, like skiing or mountain biking. But, in the past few years, I’ve taken to photography. The reason why I like landscape photography is that it’s all about experiencing the moment in my favorite places.

It’s a sacrificial endeavor. I usually get up before sunrise, hike to my location while it’s still dark, and often wait in the wind and the cold for the sun to rise. Sometimes it’s a cloudy morning and there is no sunrise to see. It sounds miserable, but on the occasion that the mountains light up with alpenglow, it’s those few moments that seem transcendental.

Landscape photography is the art of capturing the scene for the second when it is most beautiful.

There are so many elements involved, such as the weather, technicalities of the equipment, location, and composition. It’s a challenge to get them all right. But when everything comes together, it’s a special experience.

Mountain sunrise reflected in alpine lake in Rocky Mountains. Photo by Bryan Clark. Happier Place

First light of the sun,
Transforming the peak to gold,
Enriching the soul.

When I share my photos on social media, I don’t always know what to say. Sometimes, I’ve posted facts about my image, such as the name of a peak. Other times, I’ve tried to say something clever, or thoughtful, or funny. But for me, these methods really don’t capture why I took the photo in the first place. So I’ve decided to marry my photos with a bit of poetry that I create. It helps me to get to the heart of why I took the photo in the first place. The image shows the outer world, while the poetry shows my inner mood that the outer world helped to make. In my opinion, they really go together.

Currently, my poetic style of choice in the haiku. In structure, they’re simple to create. However, writing a good one is hard. Writing haiku is a great exercise to find the most possible meaning with few words. There are only seventeen syllables to work with in traditional haiku. So haiku really forces me to squeeze the feelings out of my images in a concentrated form. I think that’s why I started my website, Vista and Verse. It’s to explore the intersection of my photography with poetry. The project is sort of in its infancy, but I think the development of this will be a fun.

Trail road in the Rocky Mountains during colorful fall. Photo by Bryan Clark.

Wild was the country,
Where our forebears made the road,
Lost without its guide.

General Happier Place category?

Did I mention that I really love being in the mountains? It’s the thin air, the rocks, the snow, and sometimes the wildflowers that just agrees with me.

Specific Happier Place locations?

Currently, my specific Happier Place location is Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s spectacular. There are many dramatic peaks to photograph, Trailridge Road allows vehicle access into the high alpine world, and Long’s Peak is one of my favorite mountains. I’ve climbed it four times. Also, the park is close to my house.

I also really love Gunnison, Colorado. I went to college there for five years. Gunnison is relatively close to so many amazing places in Colorado, which makes it a great home base for adventure.

Sunny mountain peaks above the clouds. Photographer Bryan Clark

The sunny side up,
Good half of a cloudy day,
All the more to see.

What do you always bring out into nature with you?

These days, I always bring my camera and tripod. I also bring the gear that I think will be most necessary for travel and emergency.

Happier Place tips or hacks?

Tip One: Start your adventure before the sun rises. It sounds crazy, but I think the sunrise experience is many times more enjoyable than the midday experience. Hiking in the dark is actually kind of fun. It’s beautiful to watch the natural world transform through the different stages of dawn. You’ll pretty much have the trail to yourself. There are no traffic or parking issues, and it feels good to leave the solitude of a popular place just as the masses are arriving. I think this rule could also apply to staying out just after sunset. Just be careful that you can safely find your way back to the trailhead.

Tip Two: Find a place where few people know to go. I love having a spectacular secret spot. It becomes a sanctuary. If you find a good one, don’t tell anyone where it is. Keep it for yourself. But be safe. Carry the ten essentials and don’t get lost while exploring.

Mountain Sunrise photo by Bryan Clark. Colorado. Happier Place

Not about to fall,
Like a fortress on a hill,
Lofty and secure.

A dream destination (in space or time)?

I would like to explore the terrain hidden under the thick atmosphere of Venus or reconnoiter the canyons and peaks of Mars.

Words of inspiration?

“If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.”
– Greg McKeown, Essentialism: The disciplined pursuit of less

Find Bryan Clark, his photography and poetry online:

Instagram: bryan_clark_
Twitter: bryanclarkphoto
Vero: Bryan Clark Photography

Pin this image to Pinterest to easily find this post again and to recommend Bryan’s work to others.

Bryan Clark - Exploring Mountains and Poetry in Colorado - Happier Place

Please leave us a comment below:
Do you have a favorite among Bryan’s photos? Which one?
Which haiku speaks to you the most?
Have you ever gone on a hike before sunrise?
How about being out in nature after the sun has set?
Do you recognize any locations from the photos?
Any other comments?

2 thoughts on “Bryan Clark: Exploring Mountains and Poetry (Colorado)

  1. Absolutely breathtaking & to try to decide on a favorite, I’m mesmerized with all of it. I also apppreciate his words of inspiration, “if you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will”

    1. Thank you for your comment, Ellie. Wonderful that you find Bryan’s photography and poetry mesmerizing. I’d be hard pressed to pick a favorite as well. But I’ve had to do it several times when deciding which photos to re-share. Although, often I think it’s not a favorite – it’s just picking blindly because a choice must be made.

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