Thanksgiving Sunrise Along The Big Thompson

Moraine Park Sunrise, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
We’ve been having some of the most beautiful sunrises in Rocky Mountain National Park the last month or so. It’s been accompanied by warm and dry weather. So while it’s been a blessing for photography, the dry weather could be a precursor of things to come if we dont see some good snow soon. I photographer this image of the Big Thompson river from Moraine Park on Thanksgiving morning. The Big Thompson has only frozen over in spots, and the slow flowing river allowed for a nice reflection of this beautiful sunrise. The duality of the conditions were not lost on me. The Fern Creek fire smouldered and smoked just behind me on this warm and pleasant morning in Rocky. Technicial Details: Canon EOS 1Ds III, 17mm F4 TS-E L
Lighting makes or breaks an image. Working with the light and using it to your advantage is a part of what makes some photographers vision and imagery resonate more than others. Lighting is crucial to successful landscape photography.

Lighting for landscape photography can come in all shapes in form. Dramatic sunrise/sunset lighting is what comes to mind when most people think about dramatic lighting on the landscape. Even so, diffused light, reflected light, and light from sources other than the sun can be used to create beautiful imagery.

We’ve continue to have a very mild fall here in the Rocky Mountains. Daytime highs have often been in the sixties, and there has been very little snowfall. We need moisture more than most can imagine or we will be paying the piper next summer. One benefit the warmer weather has carried with it this fall, is stunning sunrises.

The warmer weather, and associated winds that come with warmer weather in the Rockies have allowed for beautiful lenticular or wave clouds to form along the Front Range and over Rocky Mountain National Park many mornings and evenings. Because of this we’ve been having no shortages of spectacular sunrises up in Rocky.

Combine our spectacular sunrises and cloud formations with the fact that most of the rivers located in the lower elevations have not yet completely frozen over, and there is still plenty to photograph even during Rocky’s brown season. Even so, lets keep our fingers crossed for some heavy snows and a return to a typical fall/winter season in Rocky soon.

Perfect Serenity At Chasm Falls

Cascading Chasm Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park, RMNP
A Christmas card like scene awaited me after a hike up Old Fall River Road to Chasm Falls. Visiting Chasm Falls after Old Fall River Road closes allows one to photograph the falls in solitude. It’s a much different experience than photographing the falls during peak season. Technicial Details: Canon EOS 1Ds III, 24-105mm F4 IS
Chasm Falls is a popular and heavily visited waterfall along Old Fall River Road during the summer months. Thousands of vehicles pass right by Chasm Falls during the busy summer months in Rocky Mountain National Park. Chasm is beautiful anytime of year, but hiking up to Chasm Falls once Old Fall River Road closes for the season is a real treat.

An off-season hike up Old Fall River Road to Chasm Falls will result in a completely opposite experience of visiting Chasm when Old Fall River Road is open during peak season. Most of the time you wont encounter another soul along your journey up to the falls. Hiking up above Endovalley in the stillness of a winter morning is an awesome experience.

For photographers, its also a great time of year to photograph Chasm Falls. There’s a short window of time before Chasm Falls freezes for the winter and is covered by snow. If your lucky enough to time it right, you can photograph Chasm Falls after snow has fallen, but prior to the falls freezing over.

The perfect conditions all fell into to place last week for me. Light snow was falling over Rocky Mountain National Park, and Chasm had yet to freeze. I had an intense but brief sunrise in Moraine Park and as the snowed picked up its pace, I decided to make the early morning trek up to Chasm Falls.

The hike up to Chasm paid off. I was able to capture the falls still running at a good clip. Evergreens and boulders were coated in fresh snow. Other than the sound of Fall River cascading through the chamber that makes up Chasm Falls, it was a serene and quiet morning. Nothing more than a perfect morning to photograph Chasm Falls

Just Missed ‘The Shot’

Boulder Flatirons at Sunrise on Open Space and Mountain Parks Property, Boulder
I ventured to this location the day after witnessing one of the seaons best sunrises the day before. Fresh snow had fallen on the Boulder Flatirons and I watched from my house as fog lifted and the clouds, skies and Flatirons took on beautiful hues of pinks and reds. The following days sunrise was beautiful as well, but the previous days snow had all melted. It was with a bit of regret that I headed out this morning after missing the previous days sunrise. Even so, I’m glad I returned the follwing day to witness a different, yet beautiful sunrise. Technicial Details: Canon EOS 1DsIII, 24mm TS-E F3.5 L II
One of the worst feelings one can experience when out photographing the landscape is that feeling of having ‘just missed the shot’. It happens to all of us, and watching a once in a lifetime sunrise or sunset unfold in front you while your out of position for the shot can be disheartening and torturous.

The image of what could have been can leave you feeling regretful. That shot that could have been becomes burned into your memory and you’ll run through the fateful course of events over and over. Why did I set my alarm clock so late?, why did I hesitate on hiking to a particular viewpoint?, maybe I should have hustled a little more on the trail to makeup some time etc.

Living with regrets is not a particularly productive way to go through life or landscape photography. We cant go back in time, and we cant re-create once in a lifetime opportunities. The best thing we can do is try to be more prepared for ‘the shot’ the next time. The second, and most important thing we can do is appreciate our time in the field and in nature even if were in the process of botching the shot.

Thank You, Dad

Sunrise over Longs Peak from Bear Lake, RMNP, Colorado
Another perfect sunrise along the shores of Bear Lake. Lenticular clouds hang over Longs Peak as the first ice of the season forms on the surface of Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. If it was not for the support of my father, I’d probably be doing something other than photographing scenes such as these. Technicial Details: Canon Eos 1Ds III, 24mm TS-E F3.5 L II
It was thirteen years ago today that my father, Thomas passed away at the age of sixty. Dad had turned sixty only two weeks prior, and his passing made for one of the most difficult days for my family and I. Thirteen years later, it’s still difficult to believe sometimes that my father is no longer here.

Time has healed much of the hurt and pain that losing my father has caused but at times such as today, some of it returns. On days like today, I find it’s best to remember all the great times and life lessons I learned from my father. It’s because of my father that I am able to spend mornings, like today in places like Rocky Mountain National Park.

Unfortunately, I was never able to spend anytime with my dad in Rocky Mountain National Park. It was with my dad however, that I first visited the state of Colorado. I had spent the summer of 1996 living in San Francisco with my cousin having just graduated from college. I was looking to land a job and fulfill my dream at the time of living in the city by the bay.

In actuality, I spent more time exploring and photographing around the bay area then I did looking for a job. Needless to say, I quickly depleted my funds and needed to return to New York to again work the job I had held through college. I had driven my Jeep Wrangler cross country by myself on the way out, but my dad agreed to fly out to San Francisco and keep me company on the ride back. I gladly accepted his offer because I did not have enough money at the time to pay for the gas to get back across the country.

My drive back east across the country is one of my most memorable times spent with my dad. Driving hours at a time across California, Nevada, and Utah in the summer heat and without any air conditioning in my Jeep made for some testy moments between father and son. Even so, we pushed on and entered the state of Colorado from the west.

Colorado was like and oasis in comparison to the brutally hot and dry climate of the Great Basin we had just travelled through. The evergreens and the cool high mountain passes were a welcome change from the rocks and heat. We spent three days in Colorado exploring and enjoying the mountains. Those three days in Colorado with my father sealed the deal for me. I was going back to New York, saving up so money and moving out to Boulder as soon as I could.

So even on somber days like today, I can look back and be thankful for the many things my father bestowed in me. My love of travel, photography, and Colorado are all rooted deeply with my dad and his desire to make sure we had every opportunity to do what we loved to do. I was never able to formally thank my father for the opportunities he gave me, but on mornings like today, I try my best. Thank you Dad.