Beauty In Nature Is Not Always Fair

Nymph Lake Sunrise, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
A rainbow of colors fills the sky east of Nymph Lake and Rocky Mountain National Park this morning. Particulates and smoke from the High Fire northeast of Estes Park are the reason for the colorful sunrise. It's been a difficult start to the Summer for photography in Rocky Mountain National Park but it's been much more difficult for many of Colorado's residents displaced by the wildfires. Technical Details: Canon EOS 1Ds III, 70-200mm F4 IS L
It’s been a difficult couple of weeks here in Colorado. We’ve had a very dry Winter, which turned into a very dry Spring and has continued on as an even hotter and dryer Summer. The conditions have made photography in Rocky Mountain National Park a challenge. The hot weather, combined with a general lack of clouds and persistent winds oftentimes means my Plan A agenda, quickly turns into a Plan B outcome.

Regardless of how challenging the photography has been in Rocky this Summer, it’s been a real life and death struggle for many Colorado residents. As of this writing, there are 8 wildfires burning in the State.

The second largest fire in the history of Colorado, the High Fire, is burning 20 miles or so northeast of Estes Park and has already claimed 191 homes and one life. To compound that, a house fire in Estes Park yesterday, just a few hundred yards from the Beaver Meadow entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park quickly burned 21 homes before being brought under control. Lastly, the Waldo Canyon fire is burning out of control just outside of the Garden of the Gods and Manitou Springs.

The atmosphere along the northern Front Range has been filled with smoke for a few weeks now. Because of the smoke, much of the early morning light reaching the mountain peaks is diffused and lacks intensity and pop. Today, the smoke was as thick as it has been in weeks.

In an ironic twist, the smoke combined with high clouds rewarded me with a beautiful sunrise. Just above Nymph Lake, I was able to capture this image of the Sun rising through the smoke from the High Fire and clouds to the east. The colors were spectacular and the Sun rose as a blood red orb over the high plains.

While the sunrise was spectacular this morning, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the heat subsides and rain falls from the sky. Let’s hope the weather pattern changes and we start to see some moisture out here in the tinderbox that Colorado has become.

Ordering The Chaos Of Wild Basin

Bitter Cress along the North Saint Vrain, Wild Basin, Rocky Mountain National Park
Bittercress and Mountain Bluebells bloom along the banks of the North Saint Vrain Creek. I photographed this image just below Ouzel Falls in the Wild Basin Section of Rocky Mountain National Park. Wild Basin is a fascinating place for photography, but also a very challenging location. Wild Basin's streams and water features make for great photography subjects. Finding compositions that are not to busy or cluttered is difficult with all the downed timber due in part to the Pine Beetle infestation. Technical Details: Canon EOS 1DsIII, 24-105mm F4 IS L
It’s hard to put into words exactly what it is about the Wild Basin section of Rocky Mountain National Park that feels so different and unique from others areas of Rocky. Wild Basin certainly does not get the fanfare other areas of Rocky Mountain National Park get such as Bear Lake Road, Dream Lake or Trail Ridge.

Perhaps it’s the lack of parking at most of the trailheads, or the windy and narrow dirt road used to get to the trailheads. It’s more likely its the fact that you cant drive a car right up to the many hidden treasures to found in Wild Basin. To me at least, Wild Basin has a much more understated beauty than many of the other areas of the park.

Wild Basin makes you work before revealing itself. The alpine lakes of Wild Basin are some of the most beautiful in all of Colorado, let alone Rocky Mountain National Park. Want to see Mount Alice and Lion Lake up close?. Well then your going to have to commit to a 14 mile round trip hike to do so.

Even for those not feeling spry enough for a 7 mile hike up into the beautiful alpine wilderness of Wild Basin, the lower regions are beautiful in their own right. The North Saint Vrain emanates out of this Basin on the south side of Longs Peak. The banks of the North Saint Vrain as well as many of the other creeks and streams found in Wild Basin are loaded with more subtle photographic opportunities.

Wild Basin is packed with great water features for photography. The trick is trying to find compositions that are not to busy or cluttered. The Pine Beetle infestation has felled many tree’s along the banks of the creeks. This means lots of log jam’s and dead tree’s strewn in and along the creeks, which of course can make photography of Wild Basin’s water features both interesting and difficult.

Copeland Falls, Calypso Cascades and Ouzel Falls are some of the more popular water features in Wild Basin. I settled on Ouzel Falls when I headed into Wild Basin last week. Wildflowers are starting to bloom along the creeks now and the spring runoff is starting to ebb making photography of the North Saint Vrain a bit more manageable.

I finally settled in on this image just below Ouzel Falls. It certainly does not have that smack you in the face beauty as a location such as Dream Lake, but images like this typify Wild Basin to me. Wildflowers, water, downed timber and rock’s entrenched deep within a subtle but beautiful area of Rocky Mountain National Park.

Lenticular Clouds Over Cub Lake

Sunrise at Cub Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
I had no idea what I would be photographing when I started my hour long drive up to Rocky Mountain National Park. Many of my freinds think I have a screw loose waking up at 1:45 AM in order to photograph sunrise in the park. It's morning like these at Cub Lake that keep my going. I cant get enough of mornings like this in the park. Each sunrise is so different from the next that I never tire of the morning reveille. Technical Details: Canon EOS 1Ds III, 17mm F4 TS-E L
Each time I hit the road at o’dark thirty and head up to Rocky Mountain National Park the excitement of what I might photograph is palatable. Fortunately, that excitement remains just as palatable for me as the first time I headed up to Rocky Mountain National Park in the pre-dawn hours to capture sunrise.

Some of my friends, family and fellow photographers wonder why the fixation with photography and in particular Rocky Mountain National Park. I don’t have a perfect answer for them, but both photography and Rocky Mountain National Park continue to be an obsession of mine.

For me, it’s the thrill of the unknown. Even though Rocky is a location I spend much of my time exploring, I leave feeling like I have not even scratched the tip of the iceberg. The possibilities are endless and no two days or sunrises are ever the same.

I had no idea what I would walk away with this morning at Cub Lake. Rocky was quite breezy when I arrived and the outlook for clouds in the sky or a colorful sunrise did not look promising.

Regardless, I was still pumped up for the hike and the potential on the ride up. Getting out on the trail in the pre-dawn hours regardless of the ultimate outcome is therapeutic to the soul. Rocky Mountain National Park is just to majestic a location to walk away empty handed, image or not. It’s mornings and experiences like these that keep me mesmerized with photography and Rocky Mountain National Park. What get’s you out of bed at 2:30 AM?

Flagstaff Mountain Yucca

Spring Yucca on Flagstaff Mountain, Boulder, Colorado, OSMP
Yucca plants make for great photographic subjects. It can be difficult finding a Yucca plant with it's pointy and sharp leaves arrainged in a manner that allows a composition that's not too busy. After scouting out dozens of Yucca plants along the hillside of Flagstaff Mountain in Boulder, I finally settled upon this Yucca. This particular plant was open enough, and free enough from encroaching leaves to allow for a clean view of the inside of the plant. Technicial Details: Canon EOS 1Ds III, 24-105mm F4 IS
Yucca plants are symbolic of the dry landscape of the American West. They are hardy plants that can survive in climates that are dry and experience great temperature swings. On the Front Range of Colorado, and in particular many of the hillsides around Boulder and on Open Space properties they are quite prevalent.

Native peoples have utilized Yucca plants for all sorts of helpful purposes. From cooking skewers to fibers for baskets and clothing, the Yucca plant provides a hearty staple. For photographers, Yucca plants make for equally interesting subjects in their many forms.

This particular Yucca was located on a hillside of Flagstaff Mountain in Boulder. The flower bloom on the Yucca plants this year has been quite spectacular in this section of Colorado. For the most part, the bloom has peaked, but I still figured I’d explore this hillsides to see if I could find anything of interest to photograph.

I eventually settled on this composition of these Yucca leaves fanning outward from the flower stalk. It was actually quite a challenge to find a clean composition. I attempted a similar composition on over a half a dozen other plants before finally finding this particular plant.