Matt Nuñez was on an October road trip, taking a back way to through Colorado to Moab, Utah.
The fall colors were in full array as he rolled down a dirt road outside of Ridgway with the majestic San Juan Mountains as a spectacular backdrop. “I was stopping every hundred yards, it felt like,” Nuñez said.
The San Juans make for great photos and he had the shutter working hard as he took hundreds of landscape shots on that day in 2017. But one it was one photo — Mount Sneffels rising more than 14,000 feet in rugged grandeur behind the golds and ruddy reds of autumn — was by far the best, he thought.
It was a spectacular photo. And it will soon be seen by countless people.
That special photo caught the eye of thousands of people who voted in the Colorado Division of Motor Vehicle’s Iconic Colorado contest to choose the photos that will appear on the front and back of the new Colorado driver’s license set to come out in fall of 2021. The contest had more than 400 photo entries from more than 100 Coloradans and 55,760 votes were cast.
Nuñez, who is an economic development specialist for the city of Glenwood Springs, entered three of his photos in the contest. All of them — the Mount Sneffels shot as well as photos of Maroon Bells near Aspen and the Black Canyon outside Montrose — were selected as finalists for the new license’s front design.
On March 1, Nuñez’s Mount Sneffel’s photo was declared the winner, receiving more than 47% of the votes cast for the front design.
A photo of Sprague Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park taken by Gabriel Dupon, a photographer based in Northern Colorado, received the most votes for the license’s back design.
For their photos, both men received a $500 grant from Colorado Creative Industries, a division of the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade that partnered with the Division of Motor Vehicles to promote the contest.
When the news came out about Nuñez’s winning photo, some of his coworkers were surprised as they had no idea that photography was his side hustle, he said.
“It has been funny to watch those reactions,” Nuñez said.
His interest in photograph began in high school, and “it keeps my free time productive,” he said.
The most recent redesign of the Colorado driver’s license took place in 2016. The current license also features an image of Mount Sneffels, which is the 27th tallest mountain in Colorado.
Nuñez’s landscape photography can be viewed at mattnunezphotos.com.