The fall color around Boulder is still hanging on in many areas. With the upcoming weather forecast for Tuesday night into Wednesday morning calling for up to six inches of wet heavy snow, the fall color window appears to be closing very quickly. While the snow might bring some interesting opportunities, the time is now to wrap shooting fall color here on the Front Range of Colorado.
I’ve been very busy photographing fall color in and around Rocky Mountain National Park the last few weeks. I’ve not had as much time as I would like to get out around Boulder and it’s open space. I was able to squeeze in a short excursion this morning to explore around Chautauqua and the bottom portion Gregory Canyon. To my surprise, there is still some very nice color in Chautauqua Meadows and some even better color in Gregory Canyon, especially along the drainage. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to get out again before the pending storm, but there should be some nice opportunities for some lingering fall color in and around Boulder the next few days.
The Colorado River is one of the American West’s great rivers. It’s undoubtedly the West’s most well known icon’s as it meanders through 7 states on it’s way to Mexico and the Gulf of California. The Colorado helped form the canyons of Canyonlands National Park in Utah. The Colorado is the force behind the formation of the Grand Canyon. The Colorado has also been a bone on contention for many as it’s water’s no longer flow freely from the numerous Dam’s the have been built to divert it’s water away to growing cities such as Los Angeles and Phoenix. One of my favorite book’s, ‘The Monkey Wrench Gang’ by Edward Abbey details at length the supposed fictional account of a group of what we would loosely call environmentalists attempt to blow up the Dam at Lake Powell and free the Colorado again.
Of course all of this is relevant because the headwaters of the Colorado River begin in Rocky Mountain National Park. Above La Poudre Pass, The Colorado begins as a small dribble on a mountainside. As the Colorado makes its way down into the Kawuneeche Valley of Rocky Mountain National Park, it grows in size as it meanders unpretentiously through the Valley. The portion of the Colorado River that travels through Rocky has a unique style and personality. It’s subtle, small and placid. It’s nothing like the river it will become downstream.
In many ways the Colorado River should be a highlight of Rocky Mountain National Park but is in fact an afterthought to most visitors. It does not travel through majestic canyons in Rocky, nor does it plunge over dramatic falls. The Elk and Moose whom inhabit the Kawuneeche Valley and graze along the banks of The Colorado garner much more attention from Park visitors than the famous river itself. I’ve been just as guilty as the next photographer when it comes to photographing this icon. There areas of Rocky Mountain National Park in which the scenery is far more dramatic. There are few areas of Rocky however, which hold as much historical and iconic value as the Colorado River does. It deserves more attention, and I for one plan on taking more time to photograph along it’s serene banks.
It’s getting to be that time of the year awful quickly. Wildflower season has passed and Colorado’s fall color season is quickly fading away. Were heading into the dreaded ‘photographers offseason’. The circled dates on the calendar are running out, no trips planned to far flung reaches of the state to hunt down the best wildflower patches or to find peaking golden aspen groves.
All photographers and artists will go through ebbs and flows of creativity. Many of us seem wired to be affected by the changing seasons. This is evident in our moods and reflected in our creative output. It’s beneficial for photographers to recharge their batteries, take inventory and unwind from field work a bit. It’s ok to spend a weekend working on a backlog of images while sipping on one of Colorado’s finest microbrews.
It’s also important at this time of the year not to get to complacent. Celebrate your wins, update your portfolio, print and frame some of your best shots from these last months of creative bliss. It’s also important at this point to keep your goals in view, and your skill set sharp. Make sure to continue to get out in the field to shoot and discover subjects. This will help keep your eye trained and your senses alert. Dedicate yourself to a new project and make sure you keep getting out into the field regardless of the weather or the subjects closet at hand. Even if you dial your creativity and photograph back a bit, stop the cobwebs from forming and the dust from settling. Before we all know it, wildflowers will be blooming once again.
Working within the elements goes hand and hand with being a landscape photographer. My best images are made during weather events or on the front or back end of weather events. Weather makes photographs more dynamic and unique. In a world filled with pretty landscape images photographed under cobalt blue skies, weather events can help separate your images from the rest of the pack by helping to create unique circumstances that cant be easily replicated and may occur infrequently.
I’ve had a very productive fall color season up here in Rocky Mountain National Park even though the weather by layman’s standard has been for the most part bland. I’ve been eagerly keeping an eye on the weather report each day looking for signs of change. While the San Juan’s and the southern Colorado mountains got pounded with snow starting on Wednesday, things looked very promising around Rocky Mountain National Park for this weekend. A Winter Weather advisory was in affect and Rocky was anticipating between 5-10 inches of snow starting on Saturday morning. I was in the Park on both Saturday and Sunday.
Saturday was exactly my kind of weather day. Light snow fell all day in Rocky Mountain. Even better was there was still a good amount of fall color amongst some of the Aspen trees. Saturday turned out to be a great day to photograph snow on Aspen trees and along the banks of streams and creeks that have yet to freeze over. I’ll post some of those images in the near future, but Sunday morning yielded another good sunrise image. I’ve photographed Longs Peak from upper Beaver Meadows many time. I’ve been lucky enough in the past to be able to shoot Longs Peak with fresh snow and Aspen trees in their full golden splendor.
Because of the dynamic weather conditions on Sunday, I was able to photograph Longs Peak and Autumn Aspens all covered in fresh snow as Saturday’s storm started was clearing out. Surprisingly, other than a large photography workshop group that showed up briefly to shoot this scene, there were very few other photographers present this morning to witness this awesome event. While the image is not unique and is a popular locations to photograph Longs Peak, I can say with certainty the conditions present on Sunday morning occur on occasions few and far between. Luckily, I was in the right place at the right time and have to say I’m glad I was able to capture this photograph because It’s unlikely the stars will align with the elements to allow for an image like this for some time.
So far this fall color season I have spent all my time in Rocky Mountain National Park. There are a couple of locations in Rocky that I have been attempting to photograph for some time. I’ve been lucky enough in the last week to capture some of these images. I’ve also been unable to check them all off my list and it looks like a few of these locations will require attempts again next season(cue the violins). Don’t mistake this for whining, I’ve had a great week in the Park, and I’ve been able to capture some new images that I basically stumbled upon. While I plan on making a few more attempts for some of these illusive images, time and weather may not cooperate with my attempted photographic endeavors in Rocky and I’ll just have to attempt these again next year.
The fall color in Rocky Mountain National Park is past peak in almost all areas except the lowest elevations. Because of the warm weather, lots of yellow leaves remain on the trees but wind and high based thunderstorms are quickly removing much of the foliage from the Aspen trees in the Park. In particular the Bear Lake area is quickly losing it foliage and the Bierdstadt Moraine is not far behind.
Regardless, there are still many opportunities for fall color in the Park. Harkening back to my September 25th, 2011, I employed fall foliage ‘tip 2’ to work to my advantage this morning. It’s certainly easy to wander through an Aspen grove and just stare upwards and the golden leaves and branches. But following my own advice, I headed over to Boulder Brook after shooting sunrise from the Bierdstadt Moraine.
While the Aspen trees around Boulder Brook are past peak, the trees are in the process of shedding their leaves which are currently landing all around the Brook and on top of the vibrant green moss that lines the banks of the stream. Boulder Brook is one of my favorite locations in Rocky Mountain National Park. Having grown up on the east coast amongst forests of deciduous trees with lots of moisture and flowing creeks, Boulder Brook seems out of place along the typically drier eastern slopes of Rocky Mountain National Park. Boulder Brook has a unique and refreshing feel to it. Hiking along the stream covered with Aspen leaves is in my mind, one of the best experiences one can have in the Park. Water, moss, rocks and falling leaves make for a great photographic subject, especially for those willing to look on the ground for interesting subjects and compositions.