Rocky Mountain National Park Photography Tours FAQ's
Rocky Mountain National Park Photography Tours Frequently Asked Questions
Where do the photography tours begin? That is completely up to your discretion. Tom is happy to pick you up at your hotel within the city limits of Estes Park at the start of the tour. Photography tours include transportation to and from the locations we will be shooting as well as the entrance fee to Rocky Mountain National Park when in Tom’s vehicle on tour. If you would like to meet Tom at a central location in Estes Park or at a Trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park that can be arranged as well. Tom will also drop you off at your hotel in Estes Park when the tour is completed. Again our goal is to accommodate your schedule and needs when possible.
What time do photography tours begin? Tom highly recommend that photography tours start and end at times that allow us to be in the field when conditions and lighting are optimal for photography. Typically in Rocky Mountain National Park the best times for photography are at sunrise and sunset. Depending on your desired itinerary, locations and possible hiking distances, tours will need to begin at a time that allows ample time to get to our location for the best potential lighting and results. Some locations in Rocky Mountain National Park can be easily accessed within a half an hour, while other locations that require additional driving times and hiking will require more time. Prior to the tour, Tom will correspond with you about potential locations, abilities and we will agree on the best possible start times for the tour to begin based on your expectations and needs.
Why do we highly recommend scheduling a morning tour? Rocky Mountain National Park has seen a dramatic increase in the number of visitors to the park in the last 3 years. The vast majority of these visitors arrive in Rocky Mountain National Park between 9 AM and 5 PM. Because of this, many of Rocky Mountain National Park's most popular areas have access and parking restricted or closed by the National Park Service. This makes conducting photography tour services difficult in the afternoon as we are unable to reliably access some of the most beautiful locations in the park for photography such as the Bear Lake Trailheads, Old Fall River Road and Wild Basin. The National Park Service has requested that visitors and guides to the park attempt to schedule their visits during times that are not as busy and will reduce impact on Rocky's fragile natural resources. While we are accepting only a small amount of will considered afternoon dates until further notice, the good news is the vast majority of Rocky Mountain National Park's most iconic and beautiful locations are best in the early morning hours when there are only a few other visitors present in the park while at same time the lighting remains optimal for photography. Please feel free to contact me in regards to when the best time to visit and schedule a photography tour in Rocky Mountain National Park.
What kind of camera is required? Typically Tom recommends participants have at least Digital SLR camera or a Mirrorless camera system to participate. These camera systems need to have the ability to manually control camera functions such as F-stops, shutter speeds and ISO adjustments in order to facilitate instruction as well to provide the best opportunity to capture images and hone technique.
What camera gear essentials are recommended while on a tour? Besides having a Digital or Mirrorless camera system with at least one lens, we recommend the following camera gear for tours. A tripod and head is a necessity for stabilizing your camera system. Because we are likely to be shooting in low light conditions, tripods are necessary to capture longer exposures while being able to maximize image quality through the use of low ISO settings while avoiding camera shake. We also recommend a cable release for your camera to trip the shutter without causing vibration. Filters such as a polarizing filters for your lenses and split neutral density filters are also recommended.
I don't have a Digital SLR or Mirrorless camers system, but I would still like to take a photography tour? Not a problem. Tom has access to additional Digital SLR’s and lens system and would be happy to allow the use of this equipment while on a photography tour in the field. Tom also has a backup tripod with Arca-type ballhead that can be used if tour participants do not have one.Participants will however have to provide their own digital storage for images such as an SD card, CF card or the ability to download images taken on the tour to their own personal computer or digital storage device.
Does Tom also photograph when on a tour? Yes, some of the time. My thoughts on this have changed over the last few years of guiding clients in the field and getting feedback on their experience. When I first started guiding tours in Rocky Mountain National Park I did not photograph while in the field with clients. My original intentions on opting to not photograph while out with clients was to provide my undivided attention to not only the safety of the participants, but also to enhance their experience while photographing Rocky Mountain National Park. While this is still my number one goal when in the field with clients, I have discovered that the vast majority of my clients requested that after they were settled in and setup for the shot, that I also setup and demonstrate my technique and gear when in the field. I have found that most of my photography tour clients not only wanted to photograph a scene, but wanted the experience of watching my techniques being employed alongside theirs in a hands on style and approach. When time permits I may photograph alongside participants when appropriate but it will in no way interfere with our tour itinerary or the attention and dedication I extend to my clients. It is my goal to provide my tour participants with the full attention they deserve while making every reasonable attempt to increase the probability that we return from our outing with beautiful images of Rocky Mountain National Park.
What are some of the typical locations we will photograph in Rocky Mountain National Park? Tom will discuss expectations with clients prior to the tour whenever possible. That being said, Rocky Mountain National Park is a large area, with limitless photographic possibilities. Popular locations for photography tours include the Bear Lake and Dream Lake area, Moraine Park, Horseshoe Park as well as Trail Ridge Road and Fall River Road when open for the season.
How physically demanding are the tours? This is subjective and will vary greatly from person to person. Prior to a tour each participant needs to honestly assess their physical capabilities including acclimation to the high altitude environment Rocky Mountain National Park is located within. Tom is happy to customize tours and the itinerary based on your comfort level. There are photographic locations that will require little physical activity to reach, to ones that will require strenuous physical activity to reach. Keep in mind that the entrance stations alone to Rocky Mountain National Park all reside above 8000 ft above sea level. Some of Rocky Mountain National Park’s most scenic areas and ones often photographed on tours reside between 9500 ft above sea level to 12,300 ft above sea level.
What should I wear when on a photography tour? Temperatures and weather in Rocky Mountain National Park can vary greatly. It is not uncommon to find temperatures at sunrise in the middle of summer below freezing, in fact it can even snow at some of the higher elevations in the months of July and August. During the summer months, thunderstorms are common, especially in the afternoon. Elevation also has a significant impact on temperatures and weather in Rocky Mountain National Park. The bottom line is make sure to dress in layers and bring extra clothing such as a hat and gloves even during the summer months. It is also important to have good footwear and socks when on tours. Traversing steep, rocky and wet terrain may be required to access some locations. Footwear such as flip flops and sandals are a definite no-no.
What are the current conditions like in Rocky Mountain National Park?. Conditions vary greatly. Feel free to email Tom for an update on the conditions in the park prior to your tour. You can also follow Tom’s Blog on his website, Twitter feed, or Facebook account to see recent images and news from Rocky Mountain National Park.
Is Tom authorized to operate as a tour provider in Rocky Mountain National Park?. Yes. Tom has fulfilled all the requirements of the National Park Service and has been granted a Commercial Use Agreement to operate photography tours within Rocky Mountain National Park.
How is payment handled?. Payment for the tour is required at the start of the photography tour. Tom is able to accept most major credit cards.
Do I need to sign a waiver or release of liability prior to starting the tour? Yes. There are no exceptions here. All tour participants are required to sign an 'Acknowledgement of Risk' waiver prior to embarking on any photographic tour in Rocky Mountain National Park. Please read and review the Acknowledgement of Risk document here prior to signing up for a photography tour.
Lastly, please feel free to contact Tom with any addtional questions or concerns you may have or to see about availabity or book a tour date.