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"Oh, Beautiful"

Local photographer Jim Keen captures western American grandeur in Rocky Mountain Wide



There's nothing small about local photographer Jim Keen's affection for the Colorado Rocky Mountains.

In fact, Keen's desire to pay honor to the magnificent landscape he calls home led him to a new form of panoramic shooting he refers to as panographic imaging instead of photography. The result of Keen's labor of love is the recently released fine art coffee table book, Colorado Rocky Mountain Wide ($49.95/hardcover).

"When I first started in photography, about 25 years ago, the process was strictly photographic, that is, capturing images on film, then developing and printing them with chemicals in a dark room," explained Keen. "The panoramic photos in the book were all scanned transparencies, saved as computer files and printed on an inkjet printer."

The results are spectacular. Printed at a small, employee-owned shop in Canada, the reproductions in Colorado Rocky Mountain Wide are rich in color, texture and depth. And locals will appreciate the familiarity of the scenery, some of it photographed within city limits.

How many times have you wanted to give a visitor a photo book that would accurately reflect the Rocky Mountain experience, but found that the locales depicted were so remote you'd likely never actually see them? Keen offers rich images of sights close to home and heart for southern Coloradans: bison grazing at South Park, the headwaters of the Rio Grande in southern Colorado, the Great Sand Dunes, Pikes Peak, snow-covered scrub oak, the winding South Platte River, Garden of the Gods, the Wet Mountains and Sangres at Westcliffe.

Keen doesn't use a digital camera, at least not yet. "You can still record more information on film than with a digital capture," he said. He shoots with a special panoramic Hasselblad, then scans the transparencies. Some of his enlargements are 7-feet-long, and a selection of them are currently on display at Denver International Airport, on the mezzanine level of Concourse A. These inkjet prints, he explains, have a longer shelf life than traditionally printed photographs since archival inks have been developed by Epson that have more staying power than most photographic dyes.

An expert mountaineer and outdoorsman, Keen has climbed all 54 fourteeners in Colorado, and spent the entire past year camping, hiking and traveling across the state to capture the images in the book. His Web site,, offers an abundance of tips on wilderness safety, camping and backpacking etiquette and, of course, nature photography. And much of the same advice can be found on a CD included inside Rocky Mountain Wide. Among his suggestions:

Attach a small level to the top of the camera to get a straight horizon line, especially with panoramic shots.

Determine which angle will best convey the unique aspects of the subject.

Cold temperatures are bad for batteries in cameras. When shooting in freezing temperatures, keep your camera warm either in an insulated bag or inside clothing. Bring extra batteries.

Know sunrise and sunset times and locations at the spot you're shooting.

Anticipate everything that can go wrong with a shot -- faulty equipment, weather changes, etc.

Take a light reading off the back of your hand when the subject is either very light or very dark.

Use a good quality, professional lab to develop your film.

Rocky Mountain Wide stands as a tribute to the natural beauty of the state and testimony to a dedicated nature photographer's life work.

"Our state is just -- I can't remember who said it, I think it was Teddy Roosevelt, that the beauty of our state bankrupts the English language," said Keen. "And it's true. It's just too beautiful for words. I thought these panoramic images were the best way for me to capture the beauty."

-- Kathryn Eastburn

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