Press "Enter" to skip to content

Colorado: An Aerial Geography of the Highest State

Review by Ed Quillen

Geography – March 2003 – Colorado Central Magazine

Colorado: An Aerial Geography of the Highest State
by Tom Huber and Jim Wark
Published in 2002 by Western Reflections
ISBN 1-890437-59-X

YEARS AGO IT STRUCK ME that coffee-table books of Colorado pictures were like Playboy magazine. Real women had moles and stretch marks, but Playmates didn’t; real Colorado mountains had roads and mine dumps and power lines, but not the mountains found in coffee-table books.

This book, even though it is of coffee-table dimensions, is a fortunate exception to that tendency. Even if the photos are gorgeously rendered, it’s a book about the real Colorado that we work and live in, rather than some idealized pristine Colorado found only in John Fielder calendars.

There is one Playboy resemblance, though. Even if the writing herein is pretty good, people will really get this book for the pictures — as well they should. Not only is there excellent color reproduction, but these photos show us our state from a perspective that few of us get to see. They’re all taken from a small airplane, generally at an oblique angle and from altitudes that range from 500 to 3,000 feet above the surface.

The resulting photos give us a bigger picture than what we can get from the ground, but a more intimate picture than the usual aerial shot, and the angles and shadows provide definition — photographer Jim Wark has a good eye.

Many Colorado books focus only on the mountains, but this gives us views from the plains and plateaus, too. It divides Colorado into life-zones — plains, foothills, montane, subalpine, alpine, upper sonoran — and gives us many aerial views of each, along with some text about the natural and human history of the zone.

IN NEITHER TEXT NOR PHOTOS does this book ignore the human element. We see gorgeous mountain wilderness — and we also see mines and ski resorts. We see untrammeled short-grass prairie, and the circles of center-pivot irrigation.

And along the way, I learned things. For instance, there’s a photo of Mount Princeton, taken from the familiar east side, with an informative explanation. The valley on the south side of the summit is V-shaped because it was formed by running water. The valley on the north side, where there’s less sunshine, is U-shaped because it once allowed a glacier to form.

After I saw it in the book’s picture, I looked for those valleys the next time I drove past the peak — and they were quite obvious, even though I’d never noticed them before.

There are many other informative views of our part of the world — South Park hogbacks, the Climax Mine, the Sangre spine, Twin Lakes, Great Sand Dunes, to name a few, and the writing is generally solid.

It’s hard for me to restrain my enthusiasm for this book. Aerial Geography is attractive, informative, and interesting. It introduces some new places, and gives us a new vantage for our familiar places.

— Ed Quillen