Snow Days

During the middle of last week we had some amazing conditions for landscape photography in Rocky Mountain National Park. Another snowstorm dropped almost 30 inches of fresh snow on RMNP and in somewhat of a rarity, conditions remained calmed as the storm moved off to the east. I was able to capture this image of Ypsilon Mountain and the Mummy Range in fresh snow on Wednesday morning which often not an easy task to do. Technical Details: Nikon Z7, Nikkor 24-70mm F4 S Lens

I hope everybody enjoyed their Thanksgiving holiday here in the States with their families. Maybe some of you were even able to get a few extra days off from work and sneak in some field time with the camera and create some new images.

This past week in Rocky Mountain National Park was a whirlwind with regards to the weather. Another great snowstorm dropped over 30 inches of fresh snow in and around Estes Park and RMNP by Wednesday morning. Even better is that the wind that so often wont cooperate after snows (more on that later), stayed calm as the front moved off to the east. Skies did not completely clear and we were left tons of fresh snow on the landscape, no wind and some beautiful cloud over the mountains on Wednesday morning.

In fact, conditions stayed fairly calm right through Thursday morning which allowed two decent sunrise shoots after a large helping of snow, much more of a rarity than many think here on the Front Range of Colorado.

That all changed again by Friday into Saturday as the jet stream moved right over the top of the northern Colorado. After a little more snow, those winds I spoke about earlier returned with a vengeance. Hurricane force winds descended over Rocky with nearly eighty mile and hour gusts recorded and ninety mile and hour gusts recorded just south of Estes Park in Nederland.

All our fresh snow quickly began to blow around and over the roads which the park service had done a great job keeping clear. Snow falling combined with fresh snow on the ground created ground blizzard like conditions in RMNP and by the middle of Saturday morning, the NPS had to close many of the roads in Rocky Mountain National Park on account of large snow drifts, high winds and some trees that had fallen over the roadways.

All in all, par for the course here on the east side of Rocky Mountain National Park as we head from November into December. That being said there was a nice window from Wednesday until Thursday for photographing beautiful winter landscapes on the east side of RMNP.

The remainder of this week looks a lot more calm then last weeks weather pattern, though the winds will remain and we may have some light snow by Thursday. As always with Rocky Mountain National Park in the winter, one needs to make quick work of any chances to shoot freshly fallen snow and keep an eye on the weather and hope for a little bit of good luck with the timing of the storms for conditions to come together like the image of Ypsilon Mountain and the Mummy Range at sunrise on Wednesday morning.

Chanelling Lyman Byxbe

Before the arrival of another large early season snowstorm to Rocky Mountain National Park, I was able to capture this beautiful sunrise from above Upper Beaver Meadows. My compositions here echo’s that of many of Lyman Bxybe’s copper etchings of Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s always interesting to see other artists influence in one’s photography as was the case yesterday. Technical Details: Nikon Z7, Nikkor 14-30mm F4 S lens

With another large November snowstorm about to descend on the Front Range of Colorado, I took a run up to Rocky yesterday morning. Based on the weather forecast, cloud cover and timing of the storm it looked like we might have some nice light at sunrise before the weather started changing over RMNP.

As I’ve stated many times, the lighting in Rocky Mountain National Park can be simply stunning in November when sunrise or sunsets cooperate. While the lighting can be amazing this time of year in Rocky Mountain National Park for photographers, there are still challenges when photographing this time of year.

The biggest challenge is accessibility. Trail Ridge Road is closed at Many Parks Curve on the east side of Rocky and the Colorado River Trailhead on the west side. Old Fall River Road is closed at the Alluvial Fan, Wild Basin is open a short distance from the entrance station to the winter parking lot. Bear Lake Road will stay open to the Bear Lake Parking lot though the road may be snow packed and icy, especially after recent storms.

While Bear Lake Road will stay open, many of Rocky’s classic landscapes in and around Bear Lake, Dream Lake, Glacier Gorge etc., are not lit very well during the shortest days of the season. Most of the peaks in the Bear Lake/Glacier Gorge area orient facing northeast. Combine this with towering mountains and valley’s and the lighting can be tough this time of year in this area of the park (contrary to the summer months when the sun is farther north and the lighting is amazing).

This leaves the Mummy Range, Moraine Park and Upper Beaver Meadows as the most accessible areas in Rocky in the winter with the best light for photography. This is a fairly small geographic area so if your not creative you can quickly run out of new or different locations to photograph.

As somebody who has been photographing Rocky Mountain National Park for well over twenty years now, I’ve had plenty of opportunities to photograph these areas so its always a challenge for me and my personal portfolio to find new locations and compositions. Of course, weather, lighting and conditions are never the same twice so it’s less difficult than I’m making it sound.

I ended up settling on a composition that is very close to a popular pull out along US 36 that has a commanding view of the continental divide and many of the prominent peaks in Rocky. I’ve seen many others photograph from this location as I have, but I’ve never incorporated this tree into the image (as others have).

While watching this colorful sunrise unfold in front of me, I couldn’t help but thinks how much the image in the viewfinder reminded me of many of the Lyman Byxbe copper plate etchings of Rocky Mountain National Park made famous in wall art and postcards.

Lyman Byxbe spent many years in his Estes Park studios creating beautiful copper etchings of what are some of the parks most iconic scenes. In fact, I would argue that Lyman Byxbe pioneered many of the compositions that photographers such as myself end up emulating today.

Often found in Lyman Byxbe’s beautiful copper etchings is the use of tree’s to add depth to a landscape presented on a two dimensional medium. Like myself, it’s obvious that Mr. Byxbe was fond of the beautiful and unique trees found in Rocky Mountain National Park and sought them out in his art.

Like a lot of artists, Lyman Byxbe’s work does not receive the credit and acclaim it probably should. In recent years with the ever growing popularity of Rocky Mountain National Park, Byxbe’s work has become more sought after and appreciated. I know I certainly feel his influence in my work often as was the case yesterday morning.

There are a few books available through third parties that chronicle Lyman Byxbe’s work but other than those books, his work is available for viewing throughout various pages on the internet. I would highly recommend anybody interested in viewing one of Rocky Mountain National Park’s most interesting artist when it comes to the landscape to use a search engine and search for Byxbe’s work. If you have not taken the time to do so I think you will really appreciate his love for the landscapes of Rocky Mountain National Park.

A Few Days At Bosque del Apache

I just returned from a short trip to Bosque del Apache located in south central New Mexico. The purpose of the trip was to photograph sandhill cranes on the refuge as well as any other subjects or landscapes that presented themselves. Overall it was a short but productive trip and I will certainly be heading back down in future years. Technical Details: Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500mm F5.6 AF-S VR lens

As most of you who follow my blog or photography know, easily eighty percent of my photography takes place in Rocky Mountain National Park. While I love photographing in Rocky, just like every other photographer I enjoy getting out and spending time in the field in different and new locations when possible.

Earlier in the week, I made eight hour drive down to Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge near Socorro, NM. The point of the trip down to Bosque was to photograph the sandhill crane migration along with large flocks of snow Geese that also congregate there this time of year.

While the sandhill cranes are certainly the main attraction at Bosque del Apache, the large flocks of snow geese that arrive on the refuge are equally compelling to photograph. Photographing ‘blast off’ in the morning is an experience every photographer should have. Technical Details: Nikon D500, Nikkor 500mm F4 AF-S VR lens

Primarily, I would consider myself a landscape photographer. That being said, I enjoy photographing wildlife when the opportunity presents itself and find both birding and avian photograph fun as well as very challenging. Visiting Bosque del Apache would allow me to really practice my birds in flight photography and get me plenty of opportunities to photograph beautiful sandhill cranes as well as snow geese. On top of these two birds, photographing an iconic southwestern bird like a roadrunner would be nice to stumble upon.

From November through mid winter, Bosque del Apache plays host to a large groups of migrating Rocky Mountain Sandhill Cranes. These sandhill cranes spend their days in the various fields around the refuge, eating grain in the fields that the refuge manages as they head south along the Rio Grande river.

How can one make a trip down to New Mexico and not get a photograph of the iconic roadrunner?. These birds are common birds at Bosque del Apache but they dont sit still and pose for very long. Technical Details: Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500mm F5.6 AF-S VR lens

This makes Bosque del Apache one of the premier locations in the United States in which to photograph sandhill cranes as well as snow geese. Having the beautiful New Mexico desert and mountains as a backdrop for these birds is what really sets it apart from many other locations that the sandhill cranes frequent in different migration corridors.

As an opportunist when it comes to photography, Bosque del Apache was more than I could have hoped for. The avian action was great. Plenty of opportunities in the day and half I spent at the refuge to photograph sandhill cranes, snow geese and even a roadrunner. One beautiful sunset and a jaw dropping sunrise allowed for some great landscape opportunities as well.

On top of photographing the wildlife at Bosque del Apache, landscapes are always my primary focus of any trip. Bosque location on the northern tip of the Chihuahuan Desert makes it a special place, especially when the lighting cooperates. This mornings sunrise at the refuge was absolutely spectacular. Technical Details: Nikon Z7, Nikkor 24-70mm F4 S lens

I certainly see myself returning to Bosque del Apache in the future as well. The landscapes and action were great and frankly, its one of the best locations to photograph in mid to late November when the fall color opportunities have dried up and many locations begin to see their first good snows of the season. The trick here is to hone your birds in flight skills and keep an open mind on what subjects you will photograph. As always, the lighting should dictate your subject and Bosque del Apache will give you plenty of both.

Weather Whipsaw

So far this autumn there seems to be only two speeds when it comes to the weather on the Front Range of Colorado and Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s either beautiful or snowy and cold. This weather whipsaw is creating great opportunities for landscape photographers. Yesterday, I greeted Monday morning with cold temps and fresh snow in Rocky. With the fast moving storm moving out right out sunrise, Notchtop, Knobtop, Gabeltop and the Little Matterhorn caught some nice light with the landscape covered in fresh snow. Technical Details: Nikon Z7, Nikkor 70-200mm F4 AF-S VR lens

Can you think of a better way to start a Monday morning than to find a few inches of fresh snow falling?. Most would probably pass on starting their week this way but I’m certainly happy to take it.

In what’s become a Jekyll and Hyde autumn in Rocky Mountain National Park it’s only become par for the course to expect either a beautiful warm day, or very cold temperatures and snow. We seem to be lacking when it comes to the transition of the season from autumn to winter.

It’s not unusual to being seeing snow this time of year in Rocky Mountain National Park and already this fall we’ve had as I count them, four good snowfalls in Rocky with another decent one in late August that covered the high peaks above 12,000 ft. Whipsaw like weather here on the Front Range of Colorado is nothing new, but while it creates headaches from commuters and travelers, it makes for great opportunities for landscape photographers.

One of my most common requests from workshop and photography tour clients is to capture Christmas card like scenes in Rocky after a fresh snow. Most visitors and photographers to Rocky Mountain National Park assume it’s quite easy to capture postcard scenes of Rocky draped in fresh snow.

As one who believes in both transparency and managing expectations, I spend a lot of time explaining to prospective clients that capturing winter scenes in RMNP is one of the harder things to do. As I’ve stated in past blog posts, winds, sun and either too much snow or too little snow often conspire to throw a wet blanket on photographers well laid plans to capture images of snow in Rocky Mountain National Park.

One other item I like to tell clients looking to photograph snowy scenes in Rocky is that the best times to do so are often fall and late spring. This is because fall and late spring are very transitional in Rocky. Not only do we often get unsettled weather during these periods, but access and overall conditions such as open water are better than the middle of winter.

So with this season off to a decent start as far as opportunities go for photographing snowy scenes in Rocky Mountain National Park, I was more than happy to wake up Monday morning to fresh snow on the ground with more falling.

The forecast called for clearing right around sunrise so it was as good a morning as any to get out and take my chances with the weather and clearing storm. So while we had weather in the 60’s and 70’s on Saturday and Sunday in the Boulder area, Monday morning greeted me with snow and a cold 11 degrees fahrenheit.

With that said, all I could think as I scraped the ice and snow off my truck before heading the 45 miles up the hill to Estes Park was ‘what a way to start the week’. Hopefully our pattern of whipsaw weather continues because as a landscape photographer, I’m certainly enjoying all the opportunity.

Freeze And Thaw

November is a transitional season in Rocky Mountain National Park. A mix of just about anytype of weather can lead to lots of opportunities for landscape photographers. It’s a quiet time in the park as the summer crowds have moved on. I photographed this image yesterday morning in Moraine Park. The Big Thompson River is partially frozen and the cycle of freeze and thaw will continue until winter really settles into RMNP. Technical Details: Nikon Z7, Nikkor 24-70mm F4 S lens

As I write this blog post, summer and autumn seem like long distance memories at this point. It was only a month ago that I was out enjoying our late season autumn color. Fall took it sweet time to arrive this year in Rocky Mountain National Park, but winter certainly wasn’t going to provide the same courtesy.

As of early November, Rocky Mountain National Park is already 3 good snow events into the middle of autumn. From a landscape photographers perspective, were more or less into the winter season. The snow is going to stay on the high peaks from now until June and the lakes will remained covered in ice through May,June and July depending on their elevations.

One can still find a few open pockets of water here and there and with a few warm days thrown in here and there, it may remain so for some of November. It’s an interesting time of year to photograph Rocky Mountain National Park. The crowds are gone and so are many of the photographers who make their appearances each fall for the fall colors and elk rut.

Even though much of the park is now frozen and or snow covered, I enjoy shooting in Rocky this time of year. Sunrises and sunsets can be amazing this time of year. In fact the quality of light with the low sun angle is spectacular. Get the right conditions and you may be able to photograph one of the most colorful sunrises or sunsets all year.

November is also a great time of year to capture winter landscapes. The caveat with photographing winter scenes in Rocky is always the timing. On account of the winds and sun, the snow wont hang around very long on the pine trees, or ice covered surfaces of the lakes. One needs a little bit of luck regarding the timing of the storm and what time it exits the area and brings in high winds on the backside of the front and sun which quickly melts snow even in the middle of winter.

Overall, November can be a very exciting time to photograph Rocky. You get a little bit of everything this time of year without the crowds found during the summer months. On top of that, sunrises and sunsets are some of the best and a well timed snowstorm is always a possibility as we move through the brown season into the winter season in RMNP.

Order And Chaos

They key to capturing intimate landscapes is being to make order out of chaos. It’s knowing what to exclude from a composition, not include. I photographed this particular composition above the Roaring River this fall in RMNP. The colors of the aspens along with the forest floor was striking. Finding a way to make a compelling composition that was not too busy was more difficult. Technical Details: Nikon Z7, Nikkor 24-70mm F4 S lens

Making order out of chaos. That’s one of our primary jobs as landscape photographers. I preach to students on my photography tours that photography is not about what to include in a particular scene, but what not to include. Landscape photography is more about exclusion of objects and landmarks than it is about inclusion.

What I often see from clients out on a photography tour with me in Rocky Mountain National Park is a desire to capture what are large expansive vistas. They are beautiful to behold and frankly can be overwhelming to many photographers who are not accustomed to Rocky Mountain National Park high peaks and ridgelines.

Students first instincts are to pull out their wide angle lens, rack it back to 11,14 or 16mm and make an attempt to get all the landscape they can into the frame. The problem with this approach is that the beauty of the subject they are trying to convey quickly gets lost in the vast sweeping landscape. While a wide angle lens helps to include all the scenery and landscape they are photographing into the frame, the subject is lost as is the intent of photographer.

If I’m photographing the same scene alongside my students, they are often surprised to find me photographing with my vanilla 24-70mm lens or 70-200mm lens. Often they want to know how ‘I’m fitting all that in’ with telephoto lens. I’ll show students what I’m photographing, how I’m isolating the subject, removing distracting elements from the edges of the frame and attempting to convey my subject through the use of exclusion and isolation. For many clients this is an epiphany, they quickly go to their camera bag and grab one of their plain vanilla lenses that they use ‘back home’ and begin to craft a composition as opposed to relying on the physics of a wide angle lens to create an effect.

This image posted above and photographed this fall in Rocky Mountain National Park is a good example of making order out of chaos in a landscape. I was out with clients photographing one of the well visited waterfalls in the park. We had spent a good amount of time making beautiful images of this location and were about to move on.

Out of the corner of my eye, I spied some beautiful red and orange color on the floor of the forest. There were golden aspen trees above and I climbed a ridge to get a better look at this scene. I spent quite a bit of time with my client working on compositions and discussing the importance of making order out of chaos with this scene. The colors, the trees, this small piece of real estate in the vast expanse of Rocky Mountain National Park was calling out to be photographed, it was just a matter of figuring out how.

I tell my clients all the time that scenes like these speak to me much more than a grand landscape does. They are much more personal and cerebral. It’s very unlikely that another photographer will duplicate this scene and frankly it may be years before the undergrowth and tree canopy look like this again.

I could walk by this particular scene a million times and never find a composition. This time there was just enough order amongst the chaos to make it work.

Meanwhile, Back At Rocky

It was a spectacular Thursday morning in Rocky Mountain Natinonal Park. About 8 inches of fresh snow fell over Upper Beaver Meadows overnight. Calm winds, fresh snow and beautiful light over Ypsilon Mountain made for a postcard like scene just before sunrise. Technical Details: Nikon Z7, Nikkor 70-200mm F4 AF-S VR lens

With the fall color season now well in the rear view mirror in Rocky, we’ve officially entered the brown season. I don’t personally like using that term as I found this time of year to be beautiful in its own right.

Snow is back on the peaks, grasses are really more golden than brown, and access to much of the park is still fairly decent. There’s no denying the brown season is a transitional season, but the slower pace, smaller crowds are often welcome after the hectic summer season and fall crush of visitors to Rocky Mountain National Park.

One of the things photographers can look forward to during the brown season is the first decent snowstorms of the season. Snow has been falling in earnest in Rocky all week but a nice early season winter storm dropped nearly 8 inches of snow in the lower elevations of RMNP Wednesday into Thursday morning.

The weather forecast looked great for Thursday morning as the storm was predicted to move out of Rocky Mountain National Park early in the morning leaving partially cloudy skies and very light winds. Typically when these storms move out of Rocky, the backside of these storms come in with very high westerly winds. Not only are these winds a nuisance for photographers trying to keep their cameras steady on a tripod, but they tend to blow all the powdered snow from the pines and trees.

One can arrive the next morning in Rocky Mountain National Park after a winter snowstorm to find that other than fresh snow cover on the ground, much of the park (mountaintops and trees) look as they did prior to the snow falling. This storm had all the variables for winter like photography in Rocky looking good.

Rocky Mountain National Park looked spectacular when I arrived at 4:45 AM. Clouds covered the sky and light snow was still falling when I first arrived. The park roads were not plowed and about 8 to 10 inches of fresh snow covered the park roads depending on elevation. I headed out the yet to be closed Upper Beaver Meadows Road to wait for sunrise.

When I arrived it looked like sunrise was be clouded over. As is so often the case in Rocky, clouds hanging out before sunrise quickly begin to dissipate just before sunrise and its not uncommon to go from completely clouded over skies, to cloudless skies in short order and thats exactly how this morning panned out.

I hunkered down in Upper Beaver Meadows as it gives you one of the best views of Rocky’s peak from north to south. I could see the cloud cover was breaking quickly and I wanted to be in a location where I could quickly adapt my composition to adjust for the light and cloud cover. These beautiful snowy mornings are actually quite rare in Rocky Mountain National Park and I don’t like to miss out on the opportunity to photograph Rocky when conditions are perfect.

While I was able to eek out a couple of compositions before the clouds completely dissipated from the skies over RMNP, this image of Ypsilon Mountain from Upper Beaver Meadows just before sunrise was one of my favorite. The fog was clearing in front of Ypsilon Mountains iconic face just as the alpenglow was adding color to the landscape. Its hard to think of any mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park that received better lighting during the winter months or looks better with fresh snow than Ypsilon. In minutes the sun had risen and the fog and clouds were gone leaving only a few short moments to capture Rocky Mountain National Park draped in fresh snow.

Besides yesterday mornings beautiful conditions at sunrise in RMNP, one other item of importance occurred as well. The NPS closed Trail Ridge Road for the season yesterday. This storm, combined with what looks like more snow and winter conditions early next week put an end to another great season on Trail Ridge Road. If feels like just yesterday that Trail Ridge Road opened for the season. I’ll look forward to it reopening next May ushering in the unofficial start to the summer season in Rocky Mountain National Park.

An Autumn Morning In Harriman

A quick weekend trip back to New York to visit family allowed for me to sneak out one morning to photograph the autumn colors in Harriman State Park. A favorite location of mine when I lived in New York, Harriman State Park has some of the best autumn colors in lower New York while also being a beautiful location for landscape photography. This clear morning at Lake Kanawauke was beautiful as fog skirted over the surface of the lake. The fall colors in Harriman were spectacular as they so often are in the fall. Technical Details: Nikon Z7, Nikkor 70-200mm F4 AF-S VR lens

It’s always nice to get out of your comfort zone a little and go photograph a different location. In my case, I spend the majority of my time photographing Rocky Mountain National Park. I specialize in photographing Rocky Mountain National Park, lead workshops and tours in Rocky Mountain National Park, and consider it my favorite location to photograph. With that said, I get as excited as my clients do anytime I get a chance to head out to a different destination and photograph something a little different.

With my RMNP tour season winding down and snows starting to fall in the high country of Colorado, a quick jaunt back to New York State at the end of their fall color season is always fun. With my daughter out of school for a few days, we thought it would be a nice time to head back east and visit my 78 year old mother. While the purpose of the trip was to spend time with mom over the weekend, being a working photographer means sneaking out before everybody wakes up for the day and getting a short, but productive morning shoot in.

With only one morning to photograph before heading back to Colorado, I headed out to an old familiar and favorite haunt of mine. Harriman State Park, just across the Hudson River from where I grew up is an amazing location in fall. Lakes, streams and some of the best fall color anywhere near New York City makes Harriman State Park both a favorite of mine, and a location I can spend a few hours at in the field without missing time with the family.

While we were delayed in Denver, we landed on the backend of a large Northeaster that had just scooted up the coast. Even with all the wind and rain, most of the foliage in Harriman State Park still looked pretty good as of last weekend.

My one morning in Harriman State Park dawned clear and cool. No clouds in the skies, or overcast lighting to take advantage of the beautiful fall color but as is always the case, one just needs to adjust to the lighting and take what they are given. Luckily for me, there was some nice fog on many of the lakes of Harriman, and the strong winds from the day before had died downed.

I ended up at Lake Kanawauke at sunrise which is always a beautiful location. With about 2 hours to spare, I spend the morning in the Kanawauke area photographing the fog on the lake and the beautiful reds and oranges along the shoreline. We dont typically get foliage this colorful in Colorado so even a few hours in the field enjoying the classic east coast landscape draped in autumn colors was amazing.

Of course I could have spent hours photographing in and around Harriman State Park and Bear Mountain State Park but I had more important places to be. Leaving for the airport on Sunday morning, clouds and rain were moving in to the Hudson Valley. As I flew out over the Hudson River and looked down on Harriman State Park from high above, I wished I could have spent just one more morning in the beautiful overcast light and rain on the way that day. Hopefully, next year I’m able to spend a little more time enjoying New York, but its back to enjoying Colorado and Rocky Mountain National Park for me again.

Autumn And Ice

On the back end of our winter blast that hit Rocky Mountain National Park at the end of last week, fall color in the park is mostly done now. For photographers willing to search for some of the smaller scenes and vignettes in the nooks and crannies of RMNP, capturing the back end of the autum season is still possible. I found this menagerie of fall color frozen in a cascade along the slopes of Mount Wuh yesterday. Technical Details: Nikon Z7, Nikkor 24-70mm F4 S lens

It was fun while it lasted. Autumn was stunning this year in Rocky Mountain National Park. The elongated fall season that we experienced, with warm days and vibrant colors has mostly now come to an end. Thanks to an arctic blast which combined both wind and snow finding fall color in Rocky Mountain National Park has gotten a bit more difficult.

It’s still autumn in RMNP it’s just finding fall color to photograph takes quite a bit more work. For the most part almost all the deciduous plants have either dropped their leaves or they have turned brown from the cold temperatures. Some of the small ground plants still have some nice color but one is going to have to work a little harder on more intimate type scenes now to capture the back end of the fall season in Rocky.

With the exception of our blast of snow and cold last week, the weather is still fall like and spectacular in the park. Cool mornings that quickly warm once the sun rises are the norm. There are some icy spots on trails but for the most part one is able to access much of the park without having to pack a full compliment of winter gear.

After spending the morning in Moraine Park looking for some of the last vestiges of the elk rut, I headed up the Cub Lake trail to enjoy the beautiful conditions and investigate some of the nooks and crannies to see if there were any small patches of autumn color to be found.

While autumn color was mostly sparse along the cub lake trail, I did happen upon a small vignette that I just had to photograph. A small stream which runs down the side of Mount Wuh provided just what I was looking for.

The edges of the small cascade had frozen over. Aspen, mountain maples and narrow leaf cottonwood leaves had all recently fallen into the stream and become entombed in the recently formed ice. It’s rare enough to find all these leaves in such close proximity but the fact that I had variety combined with the contrasting warm colors of fall and the cool colors of the ice made me stop in my tracks and get the camera equipment out of the bag.

So while most of the fall color is now gone from Rocky Mountain National Park for the season, with some exploration and appreciation of some of the smaller vignettes of color that can be found in Rocky, one should be able to capture some of the more subtle fall scenes RMNP provides on the backend of the season.

Big Changes On The Way

As I write this, big changes are on the way to Rocky Mountain National Park. After a late, but elongated fall color season in the park, an October snowstorm with record low temperatures is settling in over Rocky. Yesterday, before the storm moved in over RMNP, I took advnatage of a beautiful day and spectacular sunrise to photograph what is likely to be the end of the fall color season. Sunrise over Longs Peak from Moraine Park yesterday morning was a jaw dropper and a great way to likely finish up on the autumn season. Technical Details: Nikon Z7, Nikkor 24-70mm F4 S lens

This autumn in Rocky was an unusual one. We got off to a very late start this season with many of the aspens remaining green long past the time they usually lose their leaves. A warm and dry late summer and early fall seemed to be the reason behind the late change in the foliage.

With fall color kicking off this year around the third week of September in the highest elevations, and with the warm and mild weather sticking around, the color remained very good in many parts of Rocky Mountain National Park into the second week of October. Normally, one would be looking for the last remnants of autumn gold in RMNP during the second week of October while lamenting on how quickly the season turns.

Furthermore, with the late start to fall, warm weather and lack of any early season snowstorms or cold through the second week of October, the fall color both hung on late but also remained colorful and vibrant. With the elongated fall, both the trees and the underbrush stuck around long enough so that they peaked simultaneously. Many years in RMNP, the timing with the understory and the tree canopy will occur at different times.

All in all its been an amazing fall color season in Rocky Mountain National Park and one of the more colorful but unusual ones I can remember in my twenty-one years of photographing in the park.

As of today, October 10th you can more or less stick a fork in the fall color season. While its still autumn and there are still going to be some great opportunities for landscape photography and wildlife photography in the next few months, a powerful and cold weather system has moved over the park.

While snow falling in Rocky Mountain National Park during October is nothing unusual, this front is going to pack some record low cold temperatures with it. Lows are expected to be in the single digits tonight, through Friday morning.

Normally, I would expect some of the foliage in Rocky to make it through an early season snowstorm. While there are still some trees that have yet to even turn and remain green, the single digit temperatures coming in on the back end of this front will more than likely put an end to the fall color season. Hopefully I’m wrong, but I’m going to guess that the foliage that remains in Rocky after this system moved through is going to turn brown on the account of the extremely cold early season temperatures.

I expect to be photographing some winter like scenes tomorrow morning in RMNP, but yesterday I spent as much time as I could taking advantage of one last day of peak fall color in the park. In fitting fashion, sunrise was stellar over the park. So while there is a bit of melancholy associated with the end of the fall color season, warmer weather is supposed to return to the area by the weekend and there still plenty of great opportunities for photographers before winter formally settles into Rocky.