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Steamboat Magazine

Remembering Colorado Photographer John Fielder

08/17/2023 02:08PM ● By Steamboat Magazine Staff
(Colorado nature photographer John Fielder passed away in his Summit County home on Friday, August 11, 2023 at the age of 73. Photo courtesy of John Fielder.)

Steamboat Springs, CO - We were saddened this week to learn of the passing of Colorado photographer John Fielder who died at age 73 from pancreatic cancer. For 40 years, John dedicated his life and career to capturing Colorado’s natural beauty. Working tirelessly to promote the protection of wildlands, he used his images to influence people and legislation, truly making a difference in the state he loved.

We were honored to work with him on our latest issue of Steamboat Magazine where he shared his stunning images with us, as well as stories from the field. Our art director, Melissa VanArsdale, was a friend of John’s. Below, she recounts stories from hut trips with John.

“I met John through a mutual friend, author Brian Litz, in the late 80s. We skied several hut-to-hut trips of the 10th Mountain and Braun Huts systems. Brian was an aspiring photographer and author – he later published “Colorado Hut to Hut” based on information and images of our trips. He was also John’s photo-gear sherpa, which meant I and the five others had to divvy up five days worth of food in our packs. Back then, there weren’t cell phones to capture images – most of the photography gear was solid-metal-body SLR cameras with multiple lenses, tripods and additional accessories. So even if they wanted to pack more than water and snacks, they probably didn’t have room for it – at least that’s what we were led to believe. 

John was over six feet with a large frame and his camera gear in his pack only added to his massive frame weight. Because of this, I never liked skiing in to huts behind him, especially on traverses. His uphill ski set a path drastically higher than his downhill ski. For him it was a natural physical difference, but for me it created a permanent squat bend in my uphill leg while my downhill leg stretched for the track that paralleled its path. John’s friend David “Cully” Culbreth accompanied us on many trips. Cully is built like John, so I tried to maintain my place in front of them. Not an easy task since I’m pushing 5’3” so my four strides equaled their one stride.

Once we reached our destination, the entire group, except for John and Brian, would unload and unwind in the hut. But not John and Brian – they would unpack their sleeping bags then set out with their heavy packs to ski up the nearest peak to stake out the optimal setting to take photos at dusk. This meant they returned to the hut in the dark using only headlamps or sometimes the additional light of a full moon – but always to a gourmet meal prepared by the team.

I lost touch with John for two decades when I moved to Steamboat. Then I attended a John Fielder winter slide presentation at Bud Werner Library in 2017. I approached him to reintroduce myself, but I didn’t have to – John remembered me. Then throughout the slide presentation John kept referencing and pointing at me as he shared images and memories from our hut trips. And for the first time, I got to see the beautiful images he had captured – I guess this made up for carrying the additional food or having to follow in his tracks. We kept in touch now and then since, especially recently when I asked John if he would share images for Steamboat Magazine Outdoors edition, up until his untimely passing. 

I’ll forever be grateful for sharing adventures with John and getting to call him a friend.”