A photo is worth a thousand likes.
Instagram grows in reach and relevance every day. It’s the medium of choice for many Colorado-based photographers, who use it to share their photos of food, skylines and the great outdoors — whether they’re shooting in Colorado or around the world. But no matter the subject or the setting for their work, these photographers have one thing in common: They are all insanely talented. In honor of Denver’s Month of Photography, here are the twenty best Instagrammers in Colorado right now.
Escape into the Instagram world of Adam Goldberg. A “luxury travel” photographer, he can often be found taking photos of man-made architectural marvels at unique resorts. When he’s back in Colorado, though, he immerses himself in the great outdoors, capturing surreal images of natural marvels. This photo was taken at Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park, a spot that Goldberg knows well. “Sunrise in the summer is very early, but nature in Colorado often rewards with an amazing light show,” he says. “For this particular morning at Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park, I was greeted with beautiful pink skies all to myself.”
Adrian Narvaez has been shooting for Instagram for the last three years, building a significant following in the process. He moved to Denver from Orange County two years ago; last year, he quit his day job to become a full-time photographer — and never looked back. “I went to school for engineering, so it’s very different,” says Narvaez. “When I did engineering, I worked with alternative fuel for cars; it was still pretty creative, and I did a lot of design for fueling stations. For photography, it’s more social; you’re not as isolated. Photography is face-to-face all the time. It’s a little different, and it’s a lot more rewarding.”
Now his own boss, “I love the freedom to travel as much as I can, not being stuck in a cubicle,” Narvaez says. Next month he’ll head to Cancún, then Boston and Switzerland.
But Instagram has other advantages here at home. “Definitely the community, especially in Denver,” he explains. “Every single friend I’ve made since moving to Denver is from Instagram.”
Best Food Denver
Moderated by Jacklin Shapiro (@munchie_mania) and Bre Patterson (@BiteswithBre), @BestFoodDenver has an amazingly beautiful feed that’s a feast for the eyes.
The foodie photography scene in Denver is small, tight-knit and very supportive. “Whether it’s holding a flashlight over dim food for the perfect shot or sharing your wi-fi memory card with someone who forgot theirs,” says Patterson,“we are all focused on the same things: capturing the best photo or even the best lighting and angle, sharing the most original content and being the first to post. Regardless of the competition, my fellow foodies have become my second family.”
While the term “foodie” has been adopted by many amateurs, Patterson backs up her passion with a degree in food science. She’s been obsessed with food for “as long as I can remember,” she says. “I love how unique a dish can be from one recipe to another. I think each chef can tell their story through food.”
She and Shapiro are always looking for new food experiences. The page they’ve created is all reposts, which means @BestFoodDenver is that rare, participatory feed feast that includes photos from photographers all over the city. Very few Instagram accounts can make you drop the phone and run out to eat — but with @BestFoodDenver, it happens all the time.
Blake Rubenstein is a professional videographer whose Instagram account is a layered collage of bird’s-eye views of the city, capturing Denver at its most illuminating moments. Rubenstein is obsessed with nighttime shots as well as moving images, often taking to the skies with a drone and creating sultry energy with motion. As a result, the videos on his Instagram page are standouts. “As you know, that’s what I do for a living, but my IG videos are fun side videos that I put together specifically for the platform,” he says. “I want people to sit back and enjoy some cool shots, hopefully to cool music.”
This soaring image of Sports Authority Field at Mile High was one of his trickiest achievements.
“There’s a lot I could tell you about ultimately how difficult it was to be able to legally capture that photo,” says Rubenstein. “Years of time and studying, if nothing else, I suppose.”
Best known as the ultimate Colorado wedding photographer, for the past five years Brandon Reinhardt has been shooting Alice in Wonderland-type scenes that go far beyond the altar. But his obsession with cameras started long before that. “I was always the weird kid who would take a camera with him everywhere he went,” Reinhardt recalls. “I wanted to take photos of everything that I saw. Originally, I lived in San Clemente, California, so all of my shots were of sunsets and the beach.”
After getting a degree from the School of Photography in Costa Mesa, Reinhardt found work with big national brands, including Target, Soul Cycle, KRAVE Jerky, KIND Bars and many more; one of his career highlights included the opportunity to photograph professional “soul” surfer Bethany Hamilton. But Instagram has opened up other opportunities, he says: “The Instagram community is definitely competitive, but it’s also very close. We all meet up in our areas to shoot or for sanctioned ‘Instameets.’ We all learn from each other and teach each other. It’s very cool to see your fellow Instagram friends grow as photographers or grow in their careers. It definitely inspires me to be better every day.”
Although Reinhardt appreciates the platform, he recognizes that social-media trends can be fleeting. “I know that Instagram might one day go away and something else will replace it, leaving all of us Instagram photographers forgotten,” he acknowledges. “But I’ve learned to just really enjoy my time on Instagram and not take myself so seriously.”
In the two years since Brandon Tormanen was tapped for our first Best Instagrammer list, he’s grown stylistically, fine-tuning his art to a science. He now spends a lot of his time traveling around the country, documenting new adventures — looking down long roads, over cliffs and out into the unknown, discovering abyss after abyss.
“The fire image was taken on a quick overnight camping trip in Medicine Bow National Forest,” says Tormanen. “It’s about an hour and a half northwest of Fort Collins. A few friends and myself set up camp near the lake and got a little kayaking in before settling for the evening. I don’t really winter-camp all that often. When I have, though, it’s a completely different experience. So much more attention to detail goes into it. Way more survivalist in winter conditions.”
Chloe Rekow is the eye behind @MileHighandHungry, a foodie account that posts photos of the most decadent, most cheesy, most bizarre dishes you can find in Denver. The best part about being a food Instagrammer? “Being creative and being okay with looking like a freak in public,” Rekow says.
Here’s how she recalls one of her favorite food shoots from the past year: “National Cheeseburger Day was upon us, and I wanted to celebrate in a big, food-porn-esque way. I had a vision, and I wanted to make sure to find a restaurant that would help me execute it. Kayla @1000ThingstoDoinDenver and I reached out to Punch Bowl Social, and they were just as excited as we were. We spent over two hours building burgers, deconstructing burgers and running around the restaurant to get the perfect angle and background.” The result? A meaty masterpiece.
David Lesh is a professional adventurer. “Yes, I’m definitely an adrenaline junkie,” says Lesh, pilot, mountain man, skier and founder of Virtika outerwear. All of that explains why he has some of the best views of the Rocky Mountains sprinkled throughout his Instagram account alongside action shots and travel images from around the world.
Still, one picture in particular stands out: a view that Lesh took from an airplane as the sun was setting over the mountains. “I took this photo from the call window of my airplane as I flew from Denver over the Continental Divide towards Breckenridge,” he recalls. “We took off later than expected and weren’t planning on a mountain flight, but the weather over the Rockies was clear and calm, so we headed west to catch the sunset.”
Originally from Missouri, Eric Schuette has lived in Denver for a little over a decade, taking photos all the while. “I really enjoy imagining a shot, planning it out and then heading out at crazy hours in hopes it all comes together,” Schuette says. “The cold and suffering are fortunately quickly forgotten, especially if it works out.”
A professional photographer, Schuette does his fair share of traveling; he’s equally at home taking photos in Colorado and more exotic locales.
“The most challenging shot I took was last March, trying to get some shots of the Northern Lights on a beach above the Arctic Circle in Norway. It was pretty intense, but also amazingly beautiful,” he says. “In Colorado, there was a time when some friends and I were backpacking in Rocky Mountain National Park and had to wait out some crazy afternoon thunderstorms before hiking up to a remote alpine lake to watch the sunset. While we were up there, my friend caught a sixteen-inch cutthroat trout with his bare hands.”
Garrett King’s audience has exploded over the year since he was named Best Instagrammer in the Best of Denver 2016; he now has 190,000 followers. A quick peek at King’s page will show you why. Based out of Fort Collins, King now travels the world taking photos for various brands and companies that he features on his Instagram page, including Highland Park Whisky, Sony Alpha, Avis and more. So far in 2017, King has been to Washington, California, Texas and the Oregon coast, and he somehow found time to shoot Ouray Ice Park and the San Juan National Forest here in Colorado.
One of his favorite images from the past year was a mind-bending shot taken while hovering like Peter Pan above the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. “I’m not scared of heights, so it was fun for me,” King says. Want to hit the heights with him? Follow King on his storytelling group @collectivenomads.
Continue reading to see ten more of the best Instagrammers in Denver.
Fifty shades of purple. Photographer Justin Alber uses Instagram to convey the full spectrum of the city’s sunrises. The colorful, common theme makes scrolling down his Instagram page look like a bag of pastel Skittles just exploded above Denver’s skyline. “Life can be taken away in an instant,” says Alber, an artist whose photos convey a message about the transience of time and beauty. “By looking deeper into the photographs, I make you really appreciate how quickly these moments can slip away.”
Jeffrey Beal is young, passionate and hungry, his work powerful and colorful. The photo above (and on the cover of this issue) was taken in July off the balcony of a high-rise near Cheesman Park. “I didn’t think the sunset would be so great, but I went up that afternoon in good faith, and — boom! — all of Colorado’s beauty was there for me to capture,” he recalls.
His love affair with the Mile High City has become particularly passionate over the past year, as his Instagram account has blown up — but not as much as it should have, given its insane quality and content. “I love Denver,” he says. “I’m a native, and I love showing off our beautiful city. Once I posted this photo it kind of went viral, but I really just meant to push myself creatively, personally and just catch a nice view.
All the rest was just a bonus.”
Kelly Calvillo is one of the most recognized outdoor photographers in the state, and with good reason. She often entrances her audience with dreamy landscapes and brilliant travel quotes, donning adorable hats, swimming in front of waterfalls and painting a beautiful picture of the world around her, no matter where she is. “I think I’ve always been addicted to the photographer life without necessarily picking up a camera,” says Calvillo.
“I used to just call it ‘the travel life.’ I remember traveling through the Middle East in Jordan with just an iPhone and my wits, but no one to really share it with. When I got home, it was really hard to convey what it was like in this complete opposite place that’s a world away from home. Maybe that’s where I found comfort in documenting scenery and moments.”
In spite of what appears to be constant traveling, native Calvillo is proud to call Colorado home. “I’ve never loved Colorado more than after I picked up a camera,” she says. “I’m considered a Denver native, but it took me a while to warm up to Denver being my home. I honestly always wanted out when I was younger. It took me exploring the world to come back to realize how amazing my back yard really is.”
“This was one of my favorite moments from this past year,” says professional badass, biker babe and photographer Liz Horton. “It was taken somewhere either in Austria or Switzerland, when I was traveling through Europe with the Women’s Moto Exhibit over the summer.” Her Instagram account has enabled her to connect with other photographers and bikers around the world. But she’s just as satisfied escaping to a remote Colorado locale as riding through the Alps. “It brings me right back to the feeling of riding through so much overwhelming beauty every day and being surrounded by such supportive and inspiring women,” she says.
A rare breed, the Denver-based motorcyclist defines her own adventures. “I really started getting into motorcycle photography about four years ago, when I got my first bike, a 1984 Yamaha XS650,” says Horton. “It was something that kind of consumed me: I had found this thing that was so freeing and rebellious and fun! I loved it. I wanted to capture and share little pieces of what I was feeling, and starting shooting it as much as I could. A couple years later, I linked up with the Tiny Daggers [@tiny.daggers], a three-woman Denver-based moto crew. Social media and Instagram, in particular, really became the best way for us to connect with the community and share our adventures. We are continuously trying to inspire people to have fun, go on adventures and ride as much as possible.”
With over 46,000 followers, Horton remains humble. “We’re all so lucky to have such positivity surrounding what we’re trying to do,” she says. “It’s really a new and exciting time for women motorcyclists, and I’m so happy to be a part of it.”
Luke Gottlieb has made his career photographing distinctive models. Every shade of beauty can be found on his Instagram feed, which has a folksy and faded vibe that’s a refreshing break from trendy fashion photography. “Finding models that I feel fit my style is much easier with a platform like Instagram,” says Gottlieb. “Conversely, my presence on Instagram enhanced my professional credibility in the eyes of models and brands; as the number of followers grows, it acts as a track record. Having a larger Instagram base and a unique style has been significant.”
He comes across as a cinematographer, directing stories inside of still images. “Instagram has allowed me to connect with other creatives in a way that no other platform has been able to do,” says Gottlieb. “It has been the best tool in opening my eyes to a wide range of artistic expression.”
And many eyes are on his work: Gottlieb has over 55,000 followers.
If you’ve ever wanted to run away and live in the woods, you’ll love Ross Cole’s Instagram. He explores the outdoors in the most authentic way possible: camping out or staying in remote cabins for extended periods of time. “I lived nearby in an A-frame cabin on Blue River,” he recalls. “It’s a remote location, but still only ten to fifteen minutes away from downtown Breckenridge. This is what made the experience awesome — because even though I was close to the rest of society, I felt secluded in the quiet, snowy Colorado woods. I would chop all my own firewood, because my girlfriend and I only used the wood stove to heat the cabin. I really enjoyed doing that; it was sort of meditative, you know?”
So is shooting for Instagram, which Cole loves because it’s enabled him to connect to like-minded folks in the real world. “I’ve met a ton of amazing people through this platform,” he says. “It’s also a great tool for photography, because it allows me to see what people enjoy and what they don’t.”
“It’s the hardest thing I have ever done,” Ryan Bonneau says of his mountain photography. “I love every day of it.” And it shows, because Bonneau’s images seep into your soul and stain your memory.
“Photography was always a hobby of mine, and when I moved to Telluride shortly after college sixteen years ago, I began to take it more seriously,” he explains. “It kind of sunk its claws into me, and I knew this is what I wanted to do.”
Telluride is remote, which allows Bonneau to be both an adventurer and an escapist. “Adventure is a huge part of what makes me happy, and Telluride is a paradise for that,” he explains. “I would be lying to myself, though, if there isn’t a little element of escaping by living here. It certainly is a bit of a bubble we live in.”
A full-time photographer in Telluride for the past eight years, Bonneau captures crystal-clear moments, including this fireworks show on New Year’s Eve 2016. He often takes photographs very early in the morning or late in the day, as the sun retreats. “I’m drawn to vibrant colors in the landscape, and this time of day can’t be beat for that,” he says. “I’m constantly chasing perfect light, which rarely happens but is so incredibly beautiful when it does. This also fits my lifestyle well, as I love to hike or ski into remote places and watch the sunset or sunrise. Even if I don’t get any good light, I think it’s time well spent.”
Scott Wilson works from dusk ’til dawn. A photographer from Scotland, he relocated to Denver in August 2015; Wilson praises the “beautiful state, fantastic people.” Although he takes photographs of the great outdoors, he’s known for his shots of the city. “I do like urban drama,” he admits. “Some of the work I’ve done in Commerce City, for example. Do you know Cherry Creek State Park? There’s a road called Dam Road. I park in the park and climb up in the wall, up these rocks.”
And Instagram lets him share what he sees. “Instagram is more dynamic: The light, the quality, the edge you get on Instagram is like nothing else,” Wilson explains. “You’re constantly seeing great work from other people, and it kind of inspires you, pushing you on. I’m in my forties, so it’s a place to meet some young photographers; it’s sort of energizing for me.”
This shocking view was taken from his 46th-floor office. “Very rarely am I shooting once the sun is up,” he says. “It’s always dusk and dawn.” See more work by Wilson at the Denver Photo Art Gallery in the Art District on Santa Fe, where he is a resident artist.
They Shootn Crew
The gritty, gorgeous, Denver-centric @Theyshootn displays many powerful points of view, including those of photographers Zach Hartwig @z.stills, Sina Ghozati @mr.svndmvn and Evan @_evan303_ , to name just a few. Founders Blake Jackson (@jake_blackson) and Armando Geneyro (@armando_geneyro) began @Theyshootn two years ago and have hosted a variety of gallery shows since, most recently at Jiberish in RiNo. “More than anything, Theyshootn is why I take photos,” Geneyro says. “It means being able to have a platform to tell the stories that go untold. It means constantly chasing inspiration, and never settling. It means getting out of my comfort zone, diving into something I know nothing about. Oh, and Theyshootn is hip-hop as fuck.”
The two founders are grateful for all the incredible artists and friends they’ve met since starting this social experiment. “It’s taken me down paths I never expected to travel,” Geneyro says. “It’s given me the opportunity to curate shows that feature some of my favorite artists on Instagram, to give back to the community. It’s really given me a renewed purpose.”
The concept was never to represent Denver with one voice, but with many. “Theyshootn is really just a platform to not only express ourselves through an art form we love, but also to give others an opportunity to do the same,” Jackson explains. “Anything we’ve ever done under that brand has always been about giving people an opportunity to have their work seen and voice heard. We never want to forget the ‘they’ part of Theyshootn.”
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Ty Newcomb is one of Colorado’s most daring photographers, taking intense, long winter hikes to catch glowing “magic hour” photos in Colorado’s vast wilderness. He’s even risked his life for his photos: When he took this particular shot, he barely escaped with the hair on his head. “I snowmobiled over six miles into the wilderness up to the Maroon Bells by myself at 5 a.m., only to have my sled catch fire on the way back,” Newcomb remembers.
“It happened right as I came around the final bend to get to the Bells. Luckily, I got it put out quickly, but I had to wait almost three hours for help to arrive and tow me and my sled out. But in the end, I still got some good shots, so I’d say it was worth it!”
He’s one lucky photographer. But then, we’re all lucky to be able to see his work.