If you have read my blog or social media posts long enough then you know I get least excited when the skies are blue and cloudless. Odd as it may seem, clear and cloudless days are some of the most difficult days to photograph as the light can be harsh with little drama occurring above the landscape to add intrigue to a photograph. Clear, cloudless deep blue skies are perfect for just about any other activity other than photography. Out here in the western United States, clear, cloudless deep blue skies are affectionately referred to as ‘Bluebird Skies’.
In this post, I’m not about to go on about the best way to handle capturing quality images during a cloudless day in Rocky Mountain National Park. While thats a good idea for a future post, I just going to post an image of a Mountain Bluebird.
Each spring Mountain Bluebirds return to the meadows and open spaces of Rocky Mountain National Park and are a harbinger of warmer weather to come. These beautiful birds can be found foraging for grubs on the ground, flittering from rock to rock and branch to branch. This time of year, the male Mountain Bluebirds will turn a deep blue in color with the more mature males displaying more intensely then the younger birds.
The best places to find Mountain Bluebirds in Rocky Mountain National Park are any of the open meadow and sage areas. Hollowell Park, Moraine Park, Beaver Meadows and Horseshoe Park are all good places to find Mountain Bluebirds. Drive one of the park roads that traverse these areas and keep an eye out on the ground and rocks for these colorful creatures. I find its best to use your vehicle as a blind and combine that with the use of a longer telephoto lens and its relatively easy to photograph the Bluebirds.
Each day more signs of spring and summer appear in Rocky Mountain National Park. The return of the Mountain Bluebirds to the meadows of Rocky are one sign but if you pay attention the signs of spring are becoming more obvious each day. Of course in typical Rocky fashion don’t count out a few more good dumps of snow before all is said and done with.
Good light vs. bad light. Is there even such a thing as bad light?, take that a step further is there really such a thing as good light when it comes to landscape photography?. I would say there is not. Lighting on your subject is certainly one of the most important tenants to landscape photography. The misnomer here is that certain lighting is better than other lighting. In reality, all light is good, it’s understanding how and when to utilize lighting to render you subject in a way that best represents the message you want to convey.
Dramatic sunrise and sunset lighting is what most landscape photographers strive to capture of which I can be counted amongst. Is dramatic sunrise and sunset lighting always the best kind of lighting on a landscape subject?, nope. At the same time does a rainy, cloud day mean you should just pack up your gear and head home with all hope lost?, nope.
Both dramatic early and late day lighting can produce exceptional photography. But guess what?, cloudy, rainy and gray days can also produce equally stunning results if you use the flat but even and diffused lighting to properly illuminate a subject. As always it comes down to understanding how and when to use certain types of lighting based on what mother nature is serving that day. Understanding lighting is as important as composition and exposure and its important to use the lighting that best suits your subject and conveys the message or storyline you as the photographer are seeking to present to your audience.
So what’s the reasoning behind discussing light?. Lets just say the combination of being out in the field photographing, combined with the realization summer is just around the corner has beset me with a case of spring fever.
Most of the iconic and well known locations for landscape in Rocky Mountain National Park are best lit during the summer months. This is because the mountains and peaks around the Bear Lake area of Rocky Mountain National Park’s east side have a northeast facing orientation. Whether it be the Diamond of Longs Peak, Hallett Peak or Notchtop Mountain all of these famous icons of Rocky photograph best as the sun moves north in the sky as summer approaches.
Photographing sunrise from the side of the Bierstadt Moraine on Friday really helped to drive home that not only is spring a few days away, but summer is rapidly approaching. So while I’m happy that lighting in Rocky is again favorable for many of the iconic locations, it’s important to remember that all light is good. Figuring out which kind of lighting on your subject best conveys the message you are seeking to present is the harder part.
I’m sure you’ve heard the expression before that when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. While the saying has become cliche this week seemed to jive with the saying. This mindset very much applies to photography and I often preach the importance of heading out into the field with an open mind and the flexibility to switch up your game plan based on how the conditions are unfolding.
Living and photographing in Colorado means for most people the big draw is exploring of photographing our high beautiful high peaks and mountains. I would say for most photographers when heading out into the field we are hoping to somehow include and convey our majestic peaks while highlighted by a beautiful sunrise or sunset. Sometimes however, mother nature is just not all the interested in what your plans are you need to adjust accordingly.
I was really hoping for some colorful sunrises this week in Rocky Mountain National Park or down here around Boulder. I was hoping for dramatic lighting and clouds over the iconic peaks of RMNP or the Flatirons of Boulder. One of the two actually happened. We had really beautiful color in the skies at sunrise towards the end of the week but for the most part the clouds driven by high winds aloft stayed east of the continental divide.
Nature as she so often does dictated the terms and it was up to me to figure out how to make that work. So instead of photographing snow covered high peaks I instead had to change my thinking around and find some other subjects to photograph. In a nutshell this mean lots of backlit trees and mountains to incorporate the dramatic color that unfolded east of the divide the last few mornings of the week. All in all it was not what I was planning but as always I was thankful for the opportunity to be able to photograph. In the end lemonade can be pretty refreshing, especially after a long hike.