Colorado’s sunrises are legendary for their beauty. Open vista’s and open skies can lead to some very dramatic sunrises for sure. The Winter months tend to be most productive when it comes to dramatic sunrises. This is mostly due to the down sloping winds that help form the clouds above the peaks of the Front Range and east side of Rocky Mountain National Park. As a photographer this is both a blessing and a curse. We get dramatic sunrise with colorful skies and snow peaks. We also get to be human flagpoles attempting to stand in the wind with our camera gear in order to capture the shot. I’m certainly not complaining and with the colorful skies we’ve been having you certainly find my volunteering for human flagpole duties in the future.
A good photographer looks to use their imagery to convey a sense of place and time of the location they are photographing. It’s a two way street with landscape photography. Sometimes harsh, raw conditions are glamorized. Sometimes, if were not doing a good job conveying our message and vision we may not impress upon the viewer the essence of the location and our experience at that particular point in time regardless of how beautiful the scene or the light are.
This particular morning in Rocky Mountain National Park was brutal to put it nicely. A strong Pacific storm was moving into the Colorado mountains and over the Park from the west. Of course as is the case when these storms move in, relentless high winds grate the peaks of Rocky Mountain National Park. Estes Park was clocking winds of 45 mph, but the gusts on 14,255 ft Longs Peak this morning were over 80 mph. I’d hate to even imagine being on that high rock this particular morning. The sunrise was beautiful with the soft magenta light bathing the peaks as waves of blowing snow moved across the range.
From a pull out on Trail Ridge Road, I was able to position my vehicle in a manner that acted as a slight break from the wind. I setup my tripod and did all I could to keep my camera in place and steady. I tried to shoot when the wind would subside, but the maddening thing about the wind in Colorado is just when you think a break is coming, the wind blow’s even harder as if to taunt you. Many of my images from this morning show motion blur and wont be useable. Luckily for me, I have a few frames where I managed to escape the winds wrath and come away with a sharp, in focus image of this spectacular, but windy morning.
The snow has been sparse in much of Colorado’s high country this year. Not good news for Colorado’s Ski industry and the lack of snow may also hurt the wildflower season come Summertime. There is still plenty of time for the high country to make up for the lack of snow, so we should collectively keep our fingers crossed and hope the weather pattern changes.
The Front Range however, is actually above average as far as snowfall goes. We’ve avoided large dumps of snow and blizzards, but we gotten some consistently good snows up here in the Boulder area. On average, we’ve been getting about one good snowfall a week. Front Range snow’s tend not to linger for very long. Quick moving storms on the Front Range drop their snow and move east across the Plains. The Sun then does it’s trick and the snow begins to melt of rapidly. Oftentimes, you have a short window to photograph fresh powder.
Last week we had another quick moving storm. The meadow along Boulder Open Space and Mountain Park’s Bobolink trailhead has always been a great place to photograph Cottonwood trees along the riparian habitat of Bobolink. The colored grasses and lone Cottonwood in the meadow makes for a great subject with the snow coating the ground and fog moving through the trees.
My never ending obsession with capturing images of tree’s continues onward. I cant exactly tell you why I enjoy photographing the shapes, forms and textures associated with trees, but it’s a never ending quest for me. In fact, my first ever published photo in my High Schools arts publication the ‘Soupstone’ was of a very large American Elm tree that resided in my front yard. This Elm tree was a giant and was located right in the center of my front yard, just 30 yards or so from my bedroom window. The tree framed my bedroom view looking west over the Hudson Valley of New York, a place where I spent many hours of my childhood staring out my window into the world. Other than the fall, when my brother and me would be tasked to rake the Elm’s tree’s leaves for weekends at a time, I held great respect for this tree. The coarse, cork like texture of the bark, the way the trunk split into two large distinct sections, or the way Winter winds howled through the swaying leafless grey branches at sunset all left very distinct memories for me.
The photograph, I had taken that day in 1990 of this tree with my Dad’s 35mm Minolta 5000i and 35-70mm lens still follows a formula I use today when photographing trees. With Kodak Tri-X black and white film loaded in the camera, I laid down at the base of the tree, opened the zoom lens as wide as it could go to 35mm, and photographed the trunk of the Elm tree rising straight towards the sky, it’s branches moving outward’s from the two distinct sections of the tree. There was something about the synergy of all those branches moving and spiraling outward, and the massive trunk of anchoring the branches that garnered my attention. Again, I had spent many days admiring this tree, but this was one of my first steps in successfully using photography to convey the feeling and reverence I had for this tree.
The recognition of this by my High School photography teacher, the publishing of the photo helped to light an insatiable desire to continue to document and photograph tree’s. Today those tree’s are much more likely to be Ponderosa Pines, Cottonwood’s or Aspen tree’s as opposed to American Elm’s, but the desire to photograph tree’s is still just as strong now as it was that day I wandered out in my front yard with Dad’s camera.