Snap Judgments: The Twenty Best Instagrammers in Denver

Instagram is a cultural touchstone, a way for photographers — pro and amateur alike — to compete, collaborate and share their work with the world. And there’s plenty in Colorado to share — from breathtaking mountain scenery and gritty urban sights to aerial acrobats and adrenaline junkies caught in the act. Here are our twenty favorite Instagrammers working in Denver right now, in their own words — and photos.
Dereck Larsen, the zen urban adventurer behind @6MillionStories, is a recent transplant to Denver who documents his travels from east to west and every beautiful place in between. He shoots from train tracks, while hitchhiking — even as he scales the wires of the Golden Gate Bridge. “Exploring drives me to travel, meet new people, and allows me to test my limits on fear,” Larsen explains. “It also provides an unbeatable rush: I get to push back against authority.” 
Angela Fields is sharing her passion one photo at a time. One of the creators of #Rsa_Denver and a co-moderator of the Instagram feature account @FlippinDenver, she’ll blow you away with her sunset and sunrise shots, which capture the unreal colors of the Colorado sky. “What’s to say about the Genesee spot other than it’s a must-view in person?” Fields says of the long-exposure, double-tap-worthy moment above. Follow Fields and watch for an announcement of the next InstaMeet, a local photography-themed Instagram event that she helps organize. 
A transplant from Minnesota, Brandon Tormanen has lived in the Mile High City for almost six years. He’s a master of the intimate portrait as well as a rooftop explorer, but some of his best work is done in nature. Hanging Lake is one of the most photographed scenes in the state, but it can look new when seen through the right perspective. “Pictures do not do this place justice,” Tormanen says of this ephemeral shot. “It’s a staple Colorado landmark. As soon as I got up there, I saw a couple out on the log in the middle of the lake, which seemed super-sketchy, but he ended up proposing to her in front of the small crowd of hikers. The following day, I was at Maroon Bells and another couple got engaged. Maybe I was Cupid that weekend. No pictures compare to the real thing.”
Colorado Sunshine is an architecturally obsessed, pastel Skittles bag of Denver photography. Its sole contributor is the dedicated Ashley Engler, another co-moderator for @FlippinDenver, who creates images that are as crisp as they are surprising. While many of her photos are original, Engler also does original edits on other photos for this candy-coated Colorado feed. 
“My favorite aspect of Instagram has got to be the community of people who use the app. I’ve met so many creative and inspiring photographers from Colorado who are helping put the 303 on the map,” says David Iwane. And with @Davie8theBaby, Iwane has definitely made his mark on that map, too, chasing sunsets that look like they belong on a postcard sent from fairyland. He’s the creator of the popular hashtag #ColoradoCameraClub, and you can purchase his prints through Society6. 
Chris Montes is an adrenaline junkie, and through his photos, you can ride high above such Colorado landmarks as the old Stapleton air-traffic control tower, the plains outside Dacono, even Denver’s suburbs. “To me, there is no other feeling like flying,” he says. “It is the most natural and mind-freeing sensation there is. I do enjoy flying in planes...but the openness and simplicity of flying a paramotor is second to none. My paramotor is kind of like my own personal roller coaster.” Fair warning: His daredevil video work is not for the faint of heart.
Darian Simon is a recent graduate of the Art Institute of Colorado, but his high-end photos have the polish of a veteran’s, placing models against such backdrops as snow-covered sand dunes, abandoned warehouses or the walls of his in-home studio. A show photographer for Crowd Surf and Waka Flocka, among others, Simon is reminiscent of a young Terry Richardson, and is really shooting for the stars with all the hip-hop, #nsfw, sexed-up glory of his Instagram page. “Mother Nature is truly incredible,” he says, “and I’ll be forever mesmerized, humbled and equally terrified of its power.”
Drew Wallace is a seasoned Denver Instagrammer as well as the creator of @contestday and co-moderator of @igersdenver. This hipstographer’s feed is full of faded, folksy, Colorado content. “Getting the shot is more fun when you have to get outside your comfort level and work for it,” he says. “I couldn’t get close enough to this single bison grazing separately from the herd, so I decided to jump the fence. I found myself a wee bit squeamish by the magnitude of this beast, but he seemed content chewing on frozen grass. So I threw a couple snowballs near him to get him to lift his head and took off over the fence once I knew I had the shot.”
“About ten photographers and myself were out shooting downtown, and we came to this really old, really decrepit parking garage that we’ve gone to a few times before,” remembers Blake Jackson, who shoots as Jake Blackson on Instagram. “I always bring smoke grenades with me, and luckily, one of us had a gas mask. So he put it on, we lit the grenade, and just started snapping.” No matter which name he’s using, this photographer is known for his wild color edits and complex photographs of action and adventure. Look for a song tagged in the “Location” of each shot for a hip-hop soundtrack to Jackson’s photogenic life. 
Kevin Aragon’s photos show the gritty, faded underground; the feed is full of extravagant skyline shots, emotional portraits, train tracks and nightlife. Aragon began shooting with his DSLR less than a year ago and has learned from the best, including Blake Jackson, Amando Geneyro, Brandon Tormanen and Romen Empire. “I wanted to learn more, so I found the #theyshootn hashtag Armando and Blake were using at the time and started tagging all my photos with it,” Aragon says. “Those guys noticed I was shooting a lot and reached out to me and asked if I could be in their exhibition.... The #theyshootn crew has been going hard ever since.”
Armando Geneyro is one of the loudest photographers on the local scene, the creator of the hashtag #theyshootn and co-moderator of @TheMileHighCity. He’s the house photographer at the Meadowlark every Friday for the Denver Solution, and Sunday for Gdnss; he sells his stunning skyline prints through the Time and Ends Print Co. “I took this photo off of the Federal bridge, overlooking Colfax,” he says. “From east to west, Colfax just has so much energy to it. The history surrounding that street is really interesting to me. If you want to experience the real Denver after dark, hit Colfax on foot. You’re going to see some wild shit.”
Photographer Koko Bayer, a member of RSA Graffiti, is on a mission to document the best street art in Denver. As the artist behind the Tiny Walls project, she creates street art herself, hiding tiny-wall replicas of real Denver murals around town. “Several months back, local artist @pondermonster had done a treasure hunt for his paintings and asked people to send in a picture of themselves in front of their favorite piece in town,” she recalls. “I loved that idea and riffed on it to come up with a hunt that would take people to see all these great murals. It’s been so fun, and people seem to like it. We just did day 28 of the hunt. In addition, I’ve been putting individual tiny walls all over town in stores, malls, etc., that are outside the graff belt.”
Natali Andrade’s portfolio is an adventure; she’s always traveling to remote Colorado destinations to capture surreal landscape shots and whimsical portraits of both wildlife and people. “I love Colorado, because there are views like this less than an hour away from my house. It’s such a beautiful place with so many different kinds of landscapes and places to explore,” she says. “Just after I took this photo, a really thick fog started to roll in and surround us, until it felt like we were walking around in a cloud. It was a really breathtaking moment.”
Born in Baja California, Mexico, Ruben Villalobos has lived in Colorado since he was three, and his work reflects the people and culture of Denver in unexpected ways. A co-founder of @Denvertography, some of his most impressive work involves “puddle-gram,” or reflective, photography. He’s also begun writing original poetry for each photo, including this one for the photo above:
"I am no rapper,
No actor, no trapper, I factor,
My rhymes are slow like a tractor,
I teach, like an instructor,
Lead the way,
Be the conductor,
Shit just got real,
I broke the reactor,
Chemicals all over scene,
Can you feel and read in between,
Fly away and never be seen,
Don't mess with a feign,
Take your money,
Build a machine,
Go back to when you were a teen,
No bills, no thrills,
Jamming to 'Purple Pills,'
Learning to skate,
Taking a break,
Assimilate, Contemplate,
Steak on my dinner plate,
Missed my bus, I'm late,
Can you relate,
Now before you hate,
Know that I didn't graduate,
Extra year, oh nine,
Now that diploma is mine.
(mic dropped)"
Don’t try this at home: Romen Empire is one of the biggest thrill-seekers on the Colorado photography scene. He scales rooftops (yes, it’s illegal), including the now-roped-off top of Union Station pictured above. You can also find him on cranes or atop bridges, creating epic light shows by spinning wool. A respectful artist, Romen Empire is always careful never to leave a trace of his visit behind — but his work may become a dying art form as more and more security measures are put in place.
Satisfeed Denver will satisfy all of your culinary cravings. It’s moderated by Kristen Hughes and Chloe Rekow, a popular food photographer in town and an employee of the Downtown Denver Partnership, respectively; they’ll take you to restaurant openings, new bars and even mountaintops to share the most delicious meals, desserts and drinks. Then there’s the Waffle Up! photo featured above, which just might have you drooling on your iPhone. “A waffle is like a pancake with a syrup trap,” Rekow notes. 
An art director who lives in Boulder and is the co-moderator of @ColoradoInstagram and the creator of @ALifeExploring, Garret M. King has a portfolio that will speak to your inner wanderer, capturing every foggy, dream-laden road imaginable. King is at his best while standing on a cliff, peering into the abyss, or contemplating such Colorado scenes as Sky Pond in Rocky Mountain National Park. “This was a hard task, considering the 50 mph winds that met us when we summited,” he says. “Even in the harshest weather, it’s all worth it for your buddies.”
How did Cat Stolzenbach get this skyline shot? “I went out with my new iPhone 6 to catch some shots of the sunset from City Park, not realizing that my old tripod wouldn’t work for my new, much larger phone,” she remembers. “Oops. In order to capture the slow shutter shots I was hoping for, I had to lodge my brand-spanking-new phone in between some goose-shit-covered rocks. So gross, but ultimately worth it in the end.” Stolzenbach lives a globe-trotting photographer’s life, alternating between Stockholm and Denver; she’s also the founder and a co-moderator of Urbanromantix and Arkiromantix, as well as Natureromantix.
Photographer Anthony Townsend takes the mundane and makes it extraordinary. “What I enjoy the most about taking these photographs is the exploration,” he says. “The trip itself, and seeing places I wouldn’t normally see otherwise. The photographs become an artistic memory of these locations.” But his work isn’t limited to beautiful skyline panoramas; on his feed you’ll also find jumpstagrams, magnifying glass balls and more. The caption for this photo reads: “There are many talented people who haven’t fulfilled their dreams because they over-thought it, or they were too cautious, and were unwilling to make the leap of faith.”
David Hernandez, co-moderator of @TheMileHighCity, is a registered nurse by day and a photographer by night, when he produces technically challenging shots. The Instagram favorite above was created when the shutter speed was slowed to capture the “steel-wool,” or steel-sparking, ghost image. “I drove to RiNo and decided to visit some of my favorite rail yards,” he remembers. “It was unique that these cars had been left in the yard, so I decided, why not use it as an opportunity to combine two joys, trains and steel wool? At the end of the night I got home and realized I left some photography equipment next to the train. The next morning it was gone. I hope it found a good home. I always try to add a Denver element into my photos. If you look closely, you will see the Four Seasons in the background and my Colorado Rockies hat on the train. They are hard to see because of the steel wool!”

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Lindsey Bartlett is a writer, photographer, artist, Denver native and weed-snob. Her work has been published in Vanity Fair, High Times and Leafly, to name a few.
Contact: Lindsey Bartlett