2013 is nearly wrapped up. It’s been a very productive year for me and while I mostly concentrated on adding new material to my Rocky Mountain National Park galleries, I was able to add images I’m pleased with to my other galleries as well including visits to Grand Teton National Park, as well as New York both in the summer and fall.
This time of year I enjoy looking at other photographers blogs. It’s become commonplace to post a ‘best of 2013’ review for your year end blog. We all love countdowns and top 10 lists because they are able to condense lots of information into a tiny, easily digestible package.
However, I wont be posting a ‘best of 2013’ this year. While each year I contemplate doing it, I end up talking myself out of it. During the course of the year, I try to post my best images to my blog as often as I can. I try to accompany them with information relative to the locations and experiences and work that went into making the image. I figure for most I’d only be duplicating work found in the archives from this past year.
So in wishing everybody a happy New Year, I just like to thank all my frequent visitors as well as clients who helped make 2013 a success. I’ll end 2013 much the way I started it, with an image of the Boulder Flatirons coated in fresh snow, my last portfolio image of 2013. Here’s to 2014!.
Yes, we’re finally over the hump. The hump of darkness that is. While something about that last statement doesn’t really sound right, I’ll still take the time to celebrate. Of course what I’m actually celebrating is the winter solstice. We’ve finally passed that point on the calendar were it’s all downhill from here. The days are no longer getting shorter, but from now until June 20th, daylight will increase and the sun will begin it’s slow march north in the sky.
I took time out on the winter solstice to photograph sunrise in Rocky. The Mummy Range makes for a perfect subject during these short days. The peaks of the Mummy range are oriented in a southeasterly direction which allows first light to cover the peaks with an array of intense color. After a short hike up Trail Ridge Road from Many Parks Curve I arrived at my location and setup my camera.
Winds blew waves of snow over the summit of Ypsilon Mountain and the clouds thickened over the peaks periodically shrouding the summits in white. There was only a small break on the eastern horizon to let the rising suns rays through the clouds and that small break in the clouds was getting smaller as sunrise approached.
A magenta hue started to cover the sky and move down onto the snow capped peaks of the Mummy Range. The clouds and snow squalls swirling over the peaks obstructed much of the early light, but even so, enough of the sun worked it’s way through to illuminate the flanks of the mountainsides with beautiful warm light. Much like the shortened day light hours of winter, the light show was short lived but very much appreciated.
This time of year can be a difficult one for photography in and around Rocky Mountain National Park. Storm systems move over the east side of the park bringing with them high winds and little snow.
Furthermore, the most popular areas and peaks on the east side of Rocky around Bear Lake and Glacier Gorge have a northeast facing orientation. With the sun rising well to the south, the peaks around Bear Lake and Glacier Gorge only have portions of their granite monoliths in favorable lighting with many of them remaining in deep shadows. This makes most of the iconic locals in Rocky Mountain National Park less than favorable for prime light during the shortest days of the year.
Even so there are plenty of subjects and compositions to experiment with. The winds that seem omnipresent this time of year in Rocky create interesting lighting and effects around the high peaks. Blowing snow is a constant and typically there are clouds socked in and around the continental divide. This combination can make for an interesting subject, especially if the photographer does not mind being blown about by the wind while trying to make images.
The winds rake the ridgelines and clouds and blowing snow follow the winds lead. Sunrise may be somewhat muted by the clouds and blowing snow but paying attention to the ridgelines and clouds, compositions and potential is endless. The blowing snow creates a low contrast, impressionistic feel to the icy mountainsides.
While December may not be the best time to photograph Rocky Mountain National Park, possibilities abound if you don’t mind being tossed around by the wind and trying to time your shots between gusts. Try to think of the unique possibilities this time of year presents and ignore the fact that your parked car is shaking back and forth like a top when your getting ready to head out from the Bear Lake parking lot and enjoy the season.
It probably goes without saying but if you live in Colorado people just assume you love the snow and cold. While that’s mostly true, there are some days that leave me dreaming of Summer and warmer weather. Winter photography can make even the most mundane landscapes look magical so it’s always worth the effort involved getting out in the field on a wintry morning.
There are some mornings however, when even those of us who enjoy the winter season have to push ourselves out of our warm bed in the morning. Last Friday morning was just one of those days for me. Arctic air had settled in over Colorado earlier in the week. Sub zero cold temperatures had settled in over Colorado and the Front Range along with a daily dose of light snow.
The whether conditions were culminating to a point where it became apparent, that one of these frosty mornings would be conducive to a cold but productive morning of photography.
I crawled out of the warm comforts of bed on Friday morning to find the thermometer reading a balmy -9 degrees Fahrenheit. I checked and scanned the horizon looking for snow and or clear skies. If it was crystal clear or snowing, I could use that as an excuse to crawl back into bed. I’d have no such luck, clouds drifted overhead and the horizon looked clear meaning a beautiful sunrise on the freshly snow covered peaks was looking likely.
No crawling back into bed for me, it was time to hustle, bundle up like a mummy and head out to that cold piece of metal otherwise known as my truck. I figured Chautauqua Park in Boulder would be as good a place as any for sunrise, and even more so since it would only be a short hike out into the meadow on this cold morning.
Arriving at Chautauqua Park, I hiked out into the meadow and began setting up my camera in the stillness of the morning. Even though it was cold, I love being in Chautauqua Meadow overlooking Boulder before sunrise. It’s amazing how even a bustling town like Boulder can be so quiet and peaceful in the stillness before dawn.
On a cold morning like this, waiting for sunrise can seem like an eternity. I was setup no more than 20 minutes before dawn, but the warmth of my truck had quickly dissipated into the chill of morning. Finally the clouds above the Flatirons started glowing with the color of the approaching sunrise.
My Achilles heel in cold weather has always been my fingers. No matter how hard I try, or what gloves I try my fingers always end up becoming painfully frozen within a matter of minutes. Obviously I need to work my camera and feather my neutral density filter by hand over my lens as I’m photographing. It becomes quite a task at this point to keep my fingers out of the lens and the shot, and keep my hands warm enough to even hold the filter and fire the cable release.
So in between cursing at the cold and attempting to periodically warm my hands, I was able to photograph the a beautiful albeit frigid sunrise over the Flatirons. When it was over, I barely enough feeling left in my fingers to pack my bag and fold up my tripod. A short sprint back to my truck ensued and I sat in my vehicle frozen like a block of ice for a good 10 minutes before I felt coordinated and thawed out enough to drive back home.
My love hate relationship with the cold always quickly comes to an end when I’m back at home in front of my computer with a hot cup of coffee editing my images. I quickly forget the cold when finding images I’m pleased with. So until the next morning I’m out in the field with no feeling in my fingers, I’ll welcome more opportunities for cold and snow.
If you stop by here on occasion to read my blog or view my galleries you likely know that I’m a big fan of tree’s. Tree’s are one of, if not my favorite subjects to photograph. The variety, shapes, colors, and textures of trees make for limitless opportunities. For me tree’s epitomize a location as much as any mountain or sea would ever.
For me, tree’s not only take on a sense of place, but tree’s have their own stories, and struggles. The have a uniqueness, personality and will that shows through in their shape and form. When I’m photographing tree’s this is what I am hoping to convey in my images.
In my opinion, photographing beautiful mountain peaks is different that photographing trees. There are few mountain peaks that have not been photographed countless times before. While there are certainly iconic images of individual tree’s such as the Grand Teton National Park’s ‘Old Patriarch’, I have found some of the most beautiful trees in some of the least dramatic settings.
What I love best about tree’s is that ultimately no matter the time, season or place, tree’s continue to inspire me to get out my camera and create images. Tree’s are like Polaris was to mariners and explorers for me. No matter my location, familiar or not, my old friend the tree helps me navigate, learn and create images of the landscape.