Frozen Mummy

Sunrise over Mt. Yipsilon and Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
As 2012 wraps up, Rocky Mountain National Park is finally getting the snow we’ve all been waiting for. I photographed a beautiful sunrise over Mt. Yipsilon last week and I hope to continue the trend right on up into 2013. Technicial Details: Canon EOS 1Ds III, 70-200mm F4 IS L
It’s time to say farewell to 2012. It’s been a good and productive year for me personally. I was able to photograph many of locations on my ‘to do list’. I had great luck with weather and clouds and I ended up in the right spot more often than a spectator from afar.

The majority of my time and energy was spent photographing Rocky Mountain National Park. When I wasn’t photographing Rocky, I spent time photographing the open space properties in and around Boulder.

2013 is looking to be more of the same for my photography. I have quite a few projects in mind, but my energy and resources will be spent photographing Rocky Mountain National Park.

There’s just and endless amount of subjects and locations to photograph in Rocky. I plan to do my best in 2013 to continue scratching the surface to the unlimited potential Rocky holds for photography. So here’s looking to 2013, and all the potential she holds.

Look To The East

A beautiful sunrise over Horseshoe Park in Rocky Mountain National Park
It’s easy to fall into the trap of photographing the icons of Rocky Mountain National Park. Most of the iconic images of Rocky Mountain National Park are best photographed looking westward. Dont overlook images of Rocky by facing eastward. Some of the best sunrises and cloud formations in Rocky setup to the east. Technical Details: Canon EOS 1DsIII, 24-105mm F4 IS
The east side of Rocky Mountain National Park is primed for photography at sunrise. It’s east facing peaks high above the Colorado plains are privy to the intense alpenglow of dawns early light. With the peaks of Rocky Mountain National Park perched high above the eastern plains of Colorado, there are no physical barrier blocking the horizon or sunrise. The end result of this is beautiful and intense lighting or alpenglow occurs on the peaks at sunrise.

I first photographed Rocky Mountain National Park in 1998, the year I moved to Colorado from the east coast. I was awe struck when I photographed my first sunrise from Dream Lake.

I had seen images of Dream Lake in calendars and books but the experience of hiking to the lake before sunrise and watching the sunrise unfold and bathe Hallet and Flattop mountain in rich red and orange light had me hooked. With my trusty Nikon F4s in tow, a few rolls of Fuji Velvia and Kodachrome 25 in my bag I clicked away in awe. Ever since that sunrise at Dream Lake, I’ve spent my time hiking around Rocky Mountain National Park during ungodly hours to photograph her beautiful alpine lakes at sunrise.

It’s become a near obsession for me to photograph different lakes at sunrise in Rocky. A funny thing happened along the way however. Forgive the cheesy pun, but somewhere along the way it dawned on me that some of the best photographs at sunrise were actually looking east away from the peaks and not directly at them.

Perhaps it was my migration over to digital photography which allowed the camera to capture a greater range of detail in the shadows. Possibly it’s due to the fact that some of the best cloud formations in Rocky actually setup east of the high peaks. It’s likely that it’s a desire to capture images a little bit different than those taken from the usual locations.

Regardless, photographing Rocky with an eastern facing vantage point has resulted in the creation of some of my favorite images of the park. So the next time you head out to photograph Rocky, keep your options open and don’t overlook photographing with your back to the high peaks.

The Ice Looks Nice

Ice forming along Fall River in Horseshoe Park, RMNP
It’s been a challenge finding subjects to shoot in Rocky Mountain National Park during the shoulder season. Complicated by the Fern Lake Fire, lack of snow and the usual holiday madness I’ve been spending time photographing subjects I often pass right on by. It’s been a good excercise and it’s allowed me to concentrate on different subjects in Rocky. Technicial Details: Canon EOS 1DsIII, 24-105mm F4 IS L
Ok, I’ll admit it’s been somewhat slow around here. A perfect storm of sorts has come together, which has slowed me down a tad. The combination of the holidays, the Fern Lake Fire, and the lack of any real snow in the park has been a challenge.

It’s difficult enough to successfully photograph Rocky Mountain National Park in the best of conditions, but throw in a fire that has closed off access to one of the most beautiful parts of Rocky Mountain National Park, a lack of any new snow pack to cover the transitional browns, and the holidays adding their typical chaos and it’s been an interesting end to the year here in Colorado.

None of this has stopped me from getting out and photographing. It’s just kind of reshaped the areas and subjects I’ve been photographing. This has indeed been a positive development for me. I’ve been forced to think outside the box a little more, and look for images I might normally hike or drive right past.

The Fern Lake fire has closed off access to Bear Lake Road, and Old Man Winter has shut down Trail Ridge Road and now suddenly, Rocky Mountain National Park has gotten a lot smaller. Smaller is a relative term of course as there are still humungous areas open for photography, but even still I’ve had to be a little more creative in searching out opportunities.

But as stated in a previous blog entry, it’s been a good experience for sure. I’ve been able to spend time photographing areas that are usually lower on my priority list or overlooked completely. I’ve been concentrating on smaller subjects and details which has been a great exercise and changeup. Here’s to hoping things get back to normal in the park in 2013, until then I’ll just keep enjoying photographing areas and subjects I’ve neglected in the past.

Overlooking The Obvious

The Mummy Range reflected in the frozen water of Fall River, Rocky Mountain National Park
It’s a windy morning along Fall River in Rocky Mountain National Park. Lenticular clouds form over the top of Chapin,Chaquita and Yipsilon and reflect in the froze glass like surface of the river. This season, I’ve spent a lot of my time exploring the confines of Moraine and Horseshoe Park. It’s been fun finding new images in places I often drive right past. Technicial Details: Canon EOS 1Ds III, 24mm TS-E f3.5 L II
I’ve been on a bit of a photography hiatus the last week or so. The combination of the Fern Lake fire closing most of the east side of Rocky Mountain National Park, and the lack of snow have contributed to my lethargy. If the weather predications hold, Rocky should be seeing some snow this weekend. Hopefully the much needed moisture will tamp down the Fern Creek fire and cloak the peaks in white.

As stated in last weeks post, I’ve been spending a good deal of time photographing the lower areas of Rocky. Prior to the Fern Creek fire blazing through Moraine Park, I had been spending a good deal of time photographing both Moraine Park and the Horseshoe Park area. It’s been a very productive and eye opening exercise for me.

Moraine Park and Horseshoe Park are both spectacular areas of Rocky Mountain National Park. They are each beautiful areas in their own right and deserve the appreciation they command. It can be easy however, to drive right through them on my way to other trailhead and destinations higher up in the park. Photographing Moraine and Horseshoe during the transitional shoulder season, has really opened up some new photographic opportunities that may have been ignored previously.

The Off Season

Rocky Mountain National Park Sunrise from Horseshoe Park and Fall River
The off-season in Rocky Mountain National Park can present a lot of unique opportunities for photographers. Late fall and early winter are usually reffered to as the brown season. Even so, there is a quiet peacefullness the settles in the valleys and park of Rocky this time of year. Spectacular sunrises this time of year are also one of the perks of exploring the park. Technicial Details: Canon EOS 1Ds III, 17mm F4 TS-E L
Many of my favorite locations in Rocky Mountain National Park are the alpine lakes at base of Rocky’s many beautiful granite peaks. Once the cold weather and snow start to settle in, these lakes will freeze over and become covered in snow. These locations are still beautiful cloaked in their winter attire, but photographing them while rewarding, can be challenging due to snow, wind, and cold.

Typically what I like to do when the higher elevations of Rocky begin to freeze over, is to settle down in some of the lower elevations of the park. Places like Moraine Park, and Horseshoe Park are likely to have less snow, and more flowing water even into late November.

Moraine Park and the Big Thompson River at Sunrise
Ice has covered over much of the Big Thompson River in Moraine Park as the river winds it’s way eastward. Technicial Details: Canon EOS 1Ds III 24mm TS-E F3.5 L II

Horseshoe and Moraine Park take on a very peaceful quietness to them this time of year. The crowds of people gathering to watch the Elk Rut have dispersed, and the legions of summer hikers turns to a trickle. The Moraine Park campground empties out of tents and RV’s and the overall pace in Rocky slows.

The grasses in the two parks move from golden to a more subdued brown, and the willows along the rivers drop their leaves only to have the red hued skeletons remaining. The Big Thompson and Fall River slow to a trickle. Bends in the rivers will freeze over, but water continues to flow downstream. Elk herds will gather in both locations, but with exception of an occasional bugle, the rut will have ended and the Bulls will again begin to congregate together.

Most would find this time of year to have the least appeal for photographers. After all, who wants to spend time photographing leafless trees, brown grasses and mange looking elk. My advice, take the time to explore these areas and enjoy the calm. Settle in and watch the sunrises explode with color as wave clouds setup over the Front Range. Enjoy the quietness of these areas when they are nearly free from visitors. Doing so will you allow you to truly appreciate these beautiful places.