Fall In Rocky Mountain National Park Is Looking Good Now!

Water flows in Boulder Brook and the banks are covered in Aspen Leaves, RMNP
Fall color in Rocky Mountain National Park is looking great right now. If you want to photograph Rocky’s fall splendor this week would be the time to do so. One of my favorite areas for capturing fall color in Rocky is the Boulder Brook area. This beautiful stream runs right through a large aspen grove. There are endless compositions along Boulder Brook, and fall is one of the best times to explore the area. Technicial Details: Canon EOS 1Ds III, 100mm F2.8 IS L Macro
The fall color is moving very quickly along in Rocky Mountain National Park. I’m actually a bit surprised at how fast the color has progressed in the last week. It’s been warm, dry and unfortunately very hazy from smoke from fires in the Pacific Northwest.

The good news is that it looks like rain and cooler temperatures will be moving in early this week and that should not only make for some nice diffused lighting to photograph the fall color, but also clear out the smoke and haze that has been making photography challenging for the last few months.

As for the fall color, it’s looking very nice in Rocky Mountain National Park, but as I stated earlier, it seems to be peaking very quickly. Areas around Bear Lake are now past peak. Bierstadt Moraine is about 80% changed an looking nice. Even the Cottonwoods and Aspen tree’s in the Moraine Park and Horseshoe Park area are nearing peak. While there is still some green around and I expect there to be remnants of fall color in the park for the next two weeks or so, My advice would be to hit up Rocky now if your looking for color in the park.

Autumn Aspen leaves along Boulder Brook in Rocky Mountain National Park.
The area all around Boulder Brook is chock full of potential. I photographed this pair of aspen leaves on a dead aspen bole just a few yards from the stream. Technicial Details: Canon EOS 1Ds III, 100mm F2.8 L IS Macro

I took sometime the last 2 days to photograph around Boulder Brook. The aspens around Boulder Brook are also at peak right now and the stream, vibrant green moss, and leaves on the forest floor are all combining to make for some beautiful fall photography.

The Boulder Brook area is one of my favorite locations in all of Rocky Mountain National Park, and if your looking for fall color mixed in with a beautiful mountain stream, this is the spot. The entire Boulder Brook area has a very unique and lush feel to it. The stream flows between the aspen groves and boulders and there are endless compositions for photographers and artists.

Again, my advice is to get on up to Rocky now. The fall colors are pretty much at peak in most of the park, and the cloudy, overcast and rainy weather should make for very nice conditions the next few days.

RMNP Fall Color Update

Longs Peak is framed by beautiful aspens above Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park
A gorgeous sunrise unfolds over Longs Peak and Bear Lake. The Aspen trees above Bear Lake are looking just about as good as can be right now. I photographed this view on Sunday morning. The Bear Lake area of Rocky Mountain National Park is at peak right now. There is plenty of good color to be found but I would expect this view and these trees to start dropping leaves this week. Technicial Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 24mm TS-E f3.5 L II
Quick update here on the fall colors in Rocky Mountain National Park. At this point in time, the fall color appears to be peaking about a week early or so. The Bear Lake area is at peak, and if you want to photograph the colors around Bear Lake, now would be the time to do so.

Bierstadt Moraine still has a week or so to go and many of the lower areas of the park around Beaver Meadows and Moraine Park are still a good two weeks from peaking. All in all there are plenty of opportunities for fall color photography right now with the higher locations nearing peak.

Canyon Color

Fall Splendor in Gregory Canyon, Boulder,Colorado,OSMP
There’s plenty of fall color to be found in and around the foothills of Boulder right now. This Scrub Oak provided some beautiful reds and yellows against the still green grasses. Every year photographer worry that fall color will come to soon and they will miss the peak color. While I often get a chuckle out of the panic that ensues, and the fact that most years are fairly predictable, it does appear that fall color is settling in earlier this year than usual. Technicial Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8 L
Every autumn there are various reports by photographers online depicting an area or grove of trees somewhere that is ‘peaking early’. This of course puts every other photographer in a total panic that they are going to miss the peak fall color while at the same time ruining there plans and itinerary they most likely planned a year in advance.

While this happens every year, and certain trees and locations do from time to time peak earlier the typical years, on average the peak fall color in Colorado is quite predictable. I’d prefer not to be the person crying wolf, but from what I have seen so far, it does appear that our hot and dry weather is causing the leaves in many areas to turn earlier than usual.

I made a quick scouting trip up Gregory Canyon just west of Boulder a few days back and found quite a bit of fall color. There is still plenty to come, but I would say things appear to be at least a week ahead of our typical schedule. This mirrors what I’ve observed in Rocky Mountain National Park over the last few weeks.

Again, I’m in no way trying to be that guy causing a panic. I would just say it would be a good idea to stay open to the possibility that many areas may peak earlier than is typical in most years. My advice, get out in the field, explore and keep your options open. The possibilities for photography this time of year are endless.

Fall Is Getting Into Full Swing In Rocky

Sunrise over the Big Thompson,Stones Peak and Moraine Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
A spectacular day dawns along the Big Thompson river and Moraine Park in Rocky Mountain National Park. Rocky’s first heavy frost coats the grasses along the Big Thompson as the fog hangs in the valley. Stones Peak glows red with the first sunlight of the day. Technicial Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 70-200mm F4 IS L
Fall is really starting to hit it’s stride in Rocky now. Aspen tree’s are turning gold all around the park, and we had our first heavy frost in Moraine Park on Saturday. Finally, that distinctive sound of Elk bugling through the meadows and valleys is a sure sign autumn has arrived in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Photography in the park can be overwhelming this time of year. Overwhelming in a good way of course. There is a ton of potential this time of year. Do you hike to a high alpine lake which is still unfrozen for sunrise?. Should I train my camera and lens on that grove of golden aspens?. Or should I hang around Horseshoe Park and Moraine Park looking for herds of Elk and photograph the rut?.

Some photographers excel in trying to capture all of the above subjects at the same time. Personally, I find it best to concentrate on one subject at a time. That’s not to say I wont attempt to photograph multiple subjects in Rocky on the same outings, I just find my style works best when I filter some of the background noise and set a destination.

I find it’s a good idea to have a starting point and goal when heading out in the field. That being said, I also like to have a ‘Plan B’ ready in case I have to alter plans due to lighting, location of clouds or weather. It’s also important for me to take advantage of unforeseen images or opportunities when in the field.

Saturday morning was clear and cool. I had planned to hike to Bluebird Lake in Wild Basin for sunrise but changed my plans on the way up to Rocky when it was apparent I had a zero percent change of getting any clouds at sunrise. I had passed through some low lying fog on the way up to Rocky so I figured I’d take a quick look at Moraine Park to see if any fog was hovering in the valley over the Big Thompson.

Bull Elk in Moraine Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
A beautiful Bull Elk bugles loudly as he collects his harem and wards off another approaching male. Frost coats the grasses in Moraine Park and fall is certainly in full swing. Technicial Details: Canon EOS 7D, 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 IS L
Cresting over the rise from Upper Beaver Meadows I was pleased to find some low lying fog hanging out Moraine Park along the river. Cars parked at the Cub Lake trailhead had a nice coat of frost on their windshields. A short hike out to a nice bend in the Big Thompson River and the elements started coming together. Skies were clear but the fog along the river would provide a nice element to the scene. Furthermore, it would cover up the many fences installed around Moraine Park to protect the foliage from the every hungry elk herds.

Heading back to the trailhead, I could hear Bull Elk bugling all around Moraine Park. This time of year I keep my Canon 7D and 100-400 IS lens with me in the front seat of my vehicle. I don’t consider myself a wildlife photographer per se, but opportunities to photograph the Elk rut can be plentiful on mornings like this so it’s a good idea to be prepared if the opportunity presents itself.

On my way out of Moraine Park I was lucky enough to come upon this beautiful Bull Elk and his harem. For a good twenty minutes or so I was able to photograph this Bull Elk bugling, herding and chasing other males from his harem. Finally they headed back into the cover and shade of the Ponderosa’s, and I headed home satisfied.

Glacier Gorge, Lake Helene and Fall Colors

Dawn over Glacier Gorge and the Glacier Knobs
Blue Dawn in Glacier Gorge. Just prior to sunrise, this Krumholtz tree is silhouetted agains the deep blue sky and pre-dawn light. Technicial Details: Canon EOS 1Ds III, 24mm TS-E f3.5 II
I just finished up with a couple of very productive days in Rocky Mountain National Park. The seasons are definitely starting to collide and change and Rocky is very much moving from summer into autumn.

This is without question my favorite time to photograph Rocky Mountain National Park. For the most part, you still have all the lakes open and free of ice, but the aspen tree’s and underbrush are starting to change and the Elk are starting to rut presenting photographers with plenty of varied subjects to photograph.

Sunrise at Lake Helene, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Lake Helene at sunrise.Yellow and red leaves from the underbrush float on the surface of Lake Helene in the forground. Technicial Details: Canon EOS 1Ds III, 17mm TS-E F4
Photographing fall colors this week was not in my plans. While it’s not abnormal to see and aspen tree or two changing colors around Labor Day, I have to admit I was quite surprised to find as much color change as I did occurring on many of the hillsides.

I think for the most part, the typical third and fourth week of September will provide photographers with plenty of great opportunities to photograph fall color in Rocky Mountain National Park, but there are certainly going to be some good opportunities to capture fall color in the next week or so. Our dry summer appears be causing some of the stressed trees to turn golden earlier than usual.

My plan was to photograph Mills Lake and Lake Helene if conditions looked right. The clouds I was hoping for at Mills Lake never materialized, but everything fell into place at Lake Helene yesterday.

I’ll start transitioning over to some fall color photography here a bit sooner than I expected. In a nutshell, the Bierstadt Moraine has little to no change. The area around Bear Lake itself is spotty with some decent patches of color. Above Bear Lake it’s also spotty with some patches of decent color. So while there will be plenty of golden color to photograph in the next few weeks, one can certainly find some color in the park already.