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​Colorado through John Fielder's lens

His masterful images capture the timeless majesty of Colorado's landscape, but John Fielder also hopes his photographs will help stir others to protect the awesome splendor of his state
The nature photography of John Fielder 04:54

In this centennial year of Rocky Mountain National Park, Barry Petersen found a celebrated Nature photographer hard at work, going back in time:

In a crowded world of honking horns and cubicle offices, nature can be heart-stopping.

So think how lucky John Fielder is. He's perhaps Colorado's premier nature photographer. And you could say a place like Rocky Mountain National Park is HIS office.

"I never get tired of being in places like this," Fielder said. "It's my medicine. I've been to the park 100 times in the last 40 years. And it gets better, actually, each time that I come here."

Over the last 40 years, his llamas packed with camera gear, he has hiked or climbed or crawled looking for the next perfect shot ... capturing Nature's majesty or man's footprint.

Crested Butte, Colorado. Courtesy John Fielder

A fence made of aspen trees ... a ranch nestled deep in a valley.

"When I'm alone, I think I can experience, to a deeper degree, the sensuousness of Nature, not just these views, but again, the sounds and the smells, the taste, the touch of these grasses."

"He's Colorado's photographer," said Connie Rudd, one of the aspiring photographers who flock to his workshops.

"John Fielder's work is amazing. It's inspirational," said Jamie Richards. "And it can speak to anyone in any corner of the United States, or the world."

Or come to his gallery, where the lesson is that you cannot hurry the pursuit of beauty.

Fielder showed Petersen his image of the North Fork of the Gunnison country. "This took me about a dozen trips to get this photo," he said. "So every year I would go to this location, look at the quality of the aspen trees. It was never right. And finally, after 12 visits, I finally got it at its perfect moment."

A 12-years-in-the-making picture.

Photographer John Fielder at his Denver gallery. CBS News

But one of his most famous projects was actually a century in the making. Fielder found a kindred soul, photographer William H. Jackson. With his 350 pounds of gear, Jackson was hired by the Federal government to photograph his way across the state in the 1870s.

Jackson shot 10,000 pictures of Colorado, many archived at Denver's History Colorado Center. Fielder chose 300, and went hunting for the same spots.

Some were easy, like Aspen in its early prospector heyday ... and now, actually less populated a century later.

Or railroad tracks, now back to Nature.

But sometimes he needed patience, strong legs, and a precise sense of geography to find the more remote areas. It created a book that became a bestseller.

But the decades have changed Fielder. He still finds calm here -- but now, apprehension.

"Well, Nature is challenged more than ever these days," he said. "We've got a warming planet. We soon will have nine billion people on the planet visiting places like this. We need to protect it."

That's what drove President Lyndon Johnson to sign the Wilderness Act 50 years ago, protecting America's outdoors.

To celebrate that anniversary, Fielder hit the road for a year showing his pictures, selling his books, working up to this night matching John the photographer with that other Colorado John, John Denver -- his music played by the John Adams Band.

It filled a downtown Denver concert hall -- the wonder of Nature, with a warning.

"Nature is being lost very quickly because of climate change," said Fielder. "And I want to be a part of the community of people that truly care about four billion years of the evolution of life on Earth.

"And one of the best ways to share with people how special this is and why it needs to be protected forever is through photography."

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