The next time you grab a coffee and a doughnut from Baked In Telluride (BIT), treat your senses to the photography adorning the popular bakery’s walls. Each image is glowing with color and fills the eye with impossibly sweeping vistas. From the grandeur of these San Juan Mountains to the magic and mystery of the desert southwest, Ridgway photographer Gary Ratliff has tramped the trails and waited patiently in the sagebrush for the perfect shot. The results are glorious.
A professional photographer and founder of Ouray Image Photography, Ratliff resides in nearby Ridgway and specializes in landscape and wildlife photography. He prints and frames his images in his studio using a large-format printer capable of making prints as large as 12 feet wide. His work has been shown in galleries in the region and appeared on the covers of Telluride magazine and the San Juan Skyway visitor guide.
“I backpack into the backcountry with my camera gear to find new locations to photograph, but I also take images of endearing landmarks that have a place in people’s hearts,” Ratliff said. “I approach photographing iconic landmarks with a fresh perspective, like capturing Bridal Veil Falls with the Milky Way over it. I tend to include a substantial amount of foreground in my images to create the sensation for viewers that they are present in the location.”
His show at BIT, which will hang through June, features shots taken exclusively in San Miguel County. The print media includes canvas wraps and prints behind glass ranging from 20-to-58-inches wide. The images range from Dallas Divide in the east to Disappointment Valley in the west and include images of the wild mustangs in Spring Creek Basin.
“My favorite part of the show are the images of the wild mustangs in Disappointment Valley west of Norwood,” he said. “The interactions between the horses are fascinating to watch, and in the spring, the valley setting and sunlight is expansive and majestic.”
His work reflects his abiding love for his mountain home. No matter where else he’s lived, Colorado called to him.
“I’m definitely a mountain person,” Ratliff said. “I first moved to Colorado in the 1980s and worked at Colorado Mesa University and spent a lot of time hiking, kayaking and rock climbing. That was early in my career, and I worked at several universities, including the University of Montana and finally the University of California, San Diego. I was a cultural misfit there. All the pictures in our home were of mountains, not the beach. Once I retired my wife and I agreed to return to Western Colorado, where we’ve been for the past seven years.”
Ratliff’s love of the medium sparked when he was young.
“Like a lot of photographers, a parent got me involved,” he said. “My dad had a darkroom in the basement, and we worked in both black-and-white and color film. I got my first ribbon in a photo contest when I was 12. As a kid, I mostly liked hiking in the woods with a camera and taking pictures of what caught my eye, whether it was a tree or a salamander or colorful rocks in the water.”
Ratliff recently opened Treehouse Studio at 549 Clinton Ave. in Ridgway, where he’s hosting an opening reception for his work, Ouray Image Photography, June 4 from 5-9 p.m.
He’s grateful for the opportunity to have a show in Telluride, especially at the iconic bakery on South Fir Street.
“I want to thank the owner of Baked in Telluride Neal McKinley and Sue Gustafson, the curator of the exhibits, for supporting emerging local artists,” he said. “I particularly want to dedicate my show to the memory of former Baked in Telluride owner and KOTO founder Jerry Greene, who loved the San Juan Mountains and the desert southwest.”