At the top of every Cowboy State Daily newsletter is the morning’s sunrise. It’s a very popular feature with our readers, and dozens of photo submissions come in throughout the month.
One of the more popular contributors is Dave Bell, the former executive vice president of the Colorado State Chamber of Commerce, who left the big city behind in 1993, and took up permanent residence in Pinedale.
“We had purchased a summer home in Pinedale,” Bell told Cowboy State Daily. “And so we became acquainted with the community and I was a pretty avid backpacker. And of course, photography was a large part of that as well.”
Bell changed careers, becoming an insurance agent in Pinedale until his retirement at the end of last year. But his “focus” on photography is a recent “development,” according to Bell, who said that until a couple of years ago he didn’t own a decent camera because he didn’t want to spend the money on film.
“I think it was Christmas 2000, I opened up my present from my wife and it was a Sony digital camera,” Bell said. “And my immediate reaction was, ‘Why do I need this?’ But within 15 minutes I realized that this was a game changer. I was taking pictures and I was seeing them immediately. And so that’s when we say the arms race really began.”
Bell said his photography hobby has been a wonderful activity for he and his family to share – and his images have become so popular that he has 30,000 followers for the Facebook page dedicated to his work (Wyoming Mountain Photography), and he has released two books, the first of which was published last year, titled “COVID Through the Lens.”
“During the course of 2020, I shot over 100,000 images,” he said. “We were out so much, my wife and I, just doing lots of photo safaris.”
Because Bell had never published a book before, he got great advice from Cowboy State Daily’s Bill Sniffin, who himself has authored several coffee table books about Wyoming.
“I was having trouble finding a printer, and he came to my rescue and hooked me up with a printing company in Salt Lake, who I’ve become good friends with,” Bell said.
His second book, which was just released this spring, focuses on the historic Seven Mile River Ranch in Sublette County, and is titled “Dreams On the Green.”
“The owners of the Seven Mile River Ranch… they gave me complete access to this ranch, which is about 3,300 acres,” Bell said. “It’s seven miles of the Green River and other tributaries, and I discovered it is an absolutely amazing place.”
In addition to the historic value of the ranch, which was originally the Quarter Circle Five Ranch, Bell said the owners have improved wildlife habitat on the property.
“They have worked tirelessly to improve the fishery and the habitat along the Green River,” he said. “And that’s water quality and everything else. And the result of that is that it has become an incredible wildlife sanctuary.”
A large portion of his most recent book features a mountain man rendezvous that the owners of the Seven Mile Ranch hosted two years ago.
“Six of the famous mountain man rendezvous occurred on this ranch back in the 1830s… at the confluence of Horse Creek and the Green River,” Bell said. “So we dedicated a chapter in this book to an authentic mountain man shoot that we conducted at the ranch two summers ago. We, in conjunction with the Museum Of the Mountain Man, hired seven or eight guys that played mountain man roles as part of their daily life. They’re members of the American Mountain Man Association.”
Bell said that David Wright, an authentic period painter from Tennessee, was also there to capture the event on canvas.
“He checked these guys over from top to bottom to make sure that everything that they were wearing was period, that they didn’t have a Citizens watch on the wrist by mistake,” Bell said. ‘We did it as close as you can come to a kind of a reenactment, but the photography that came out of that was stunning.”
Bell said that landscape photography is his ideal, however, as evidenced by the galleries on his website, wyomingmountainphotography.com. The photographs come from his frequent hikes and other outings with his wife.
“My wife enjoys going along,” he said. “She’s not a photographer, she’s a librarian. And so, she’ll sit and read, she’s not a hiker. So when I’m out hiking, I’m kind of a loner in that respect. And it allows me to focus more on composition and stuff.”
His photography expeditions have allowed him to capture stunning images, such as the photos of the night sky that he took at the Green River Lakes.
“I had carefully planned this, based on when the moon was not going to be rising, and when the Milky Way was going to be vertical,” Bell said. “And obviously as the Earth rotates, and as it hurtles through space, the angle of the Milky Way changes every night… but I wanted it coming out of the top of Square Top mountain, which is a pretty famous mountain. It’s a single shot. It’s not a composite. It’s like a 20-second exposure.”
Bell has so many images to share, that he tries to put something new on his website and his Facebook page daily.
“I try not to bury people in photography, but to give them something fresh every day,” he said.
Bell and his wife are already planning their next adventure.
“We purchased a fifth wheel that we just brought home in May,” he said, “And next summer, we’re headed to the Yukon for 40-50 days to get up to the furthermost point in the Northwest Territories, which is a little town called Tuktoyaktuk, located on the Beaufort Sea. We want to be there for the summer solstice.”