I can’t believe it but the end of July has already arrived. Summer in Rocky Mountain National Park typically flies by at light speed but this summer seems to have set a new speed record.
I’ll chalk it up to cool weather this spring that just wouldn’t yield to summer along with the fact that I’ve been spending lots of time in the field photographing Rocky Mountain National Park both on my own as well as with lots of great photography tour clients who have been lucky to enjoy lots of beautiful sunrises on the east side of the park.
The conditions right now in Rocky Mountain National Park are really hitting full stride. While there are still a few snowfields to melt in elevations over 11,000 ft, most of the high meadows have now greened up and wildflowers (although late) are really starting to bloom.
It’s going to be interesting this year to not only see if in some areas of RMNP wildflowers just don’t bloom at all because of our late spring, along with how long wildflowers linger on this year right into fall color season in Rocky in mid to late September. It’s been such a strange year we might have fall colors and wildflower season dovetailing right into one another.
Not to get to far ahead of ourselves, conditions in Rocky Mountain National Park are just plain awesome right now. Streams have settled down from the spring runoff but area still brimming with water. Meadows are green, and wildflowers on the alpine tundra along with wildflowers in the mid elevations are still going strong. Lakes, ponds and tarns look great and sunrise conditions have really been cooperating this year.
As we move from July into August in Rocky, it’s certainly a great time to get out and take advantage of the late summer conditions that are just rounding into mid season summer form.
I’ve been busy the past week guiding other photographers to some of the most beautiful spots in Rocky Mountain National Park. Combine that with the 4th of July holiday here in the States and I’ve not been had quite as much time to get out alone in the field to photograph for my own portfolio of late.
What I can tell you is we are now entering primetime summer photography season in Rocky Mountain National Park. Mid July through early September is going to produce some of the best conditions for summer photography in Rocky.
I’m happy to report that we made it through a few weeks here in Rocky and Trail Ridge Road has remained opened and we have not had any new snow to speak of. I say that tongue and cheek of course but thats its felt like up until this past week. Fall River Road did not open by July 4th as is normally the case but will see a delayed opening of July 13th as the NPS is still dealing with all the snow in the valley.
The monsoonal weather pattern of late afternoon thunderstorms has not really kicked in yet this summer but we are now having warm weather during the days. The remaining snow on the trail is quickly melting and wildflowers are really start to show. Indian Paintbrush, Golden Banner and even Alpine Sunflowers are starting to bloom depending on location and altitude.
As is always the case with Rocky Mountain National Park and the summer seasons it seems to take a long time to get going and always seems to be much too short in duration. But as I tell my photography tour clients, you have to make the most of summer in Rocky while it’s here.
That means lots of early morning starts, sore legs from long hikes, and a backlog of images to process during the shorter days of winter. Now is the time to get out and take advantage of the ever improving conditions in RMNP and capture all that awesomeness that is summer in Rocky with your camera.
When I take photography tour/workshop clients out in the field they often ask me what my favorite locations or conditions to photograph in are in Rocky Mountain National Park. Choosing a favorite location is like trying to pick out which child of yours is the favorite. When asked this question as to which is my favorite location in RMNP my response is usually ‘any and all’.
As far as specific conditions go, I do have a favorite. That would be any and all types of fog or low cloud deck. Fog is a fairly rare occurrence in Rocky Mountain National Park, so anytime we have fog around I’m likely to be out attempting to photograph it.
While fog will occur on both the east and the west sides of RMNP, it’s a little more common to find it on the west side of Rocky in the Kawuneeche Valley. The Kawuneeche Valley is wetter and cooler than the east side of Rocky and combine that with the large bodies of water nearby (Grand Lake,Shadow Mountain Reservoir and Lake Grandby) and you have a better chance of finding fog in the Kawuneeche Valley then say Moraine Park or Horseshoe Park on the east side.
Yesterday morning I decided to head over to the west side of the park as the infra-red satellite picture indicated better cloud cover for sunrise on the west side of RMNP. The night before both Grand Lake and Estes Park had strong thunderstorms with a good amount of rain. Because of this I was hopeful the west side would have some fog mixed in with the cloud cover above for sunrise.
When I arrived at Fairview Curve and got my first look at the Kawuneeche Valley that morning I wasnt disappointed. I could see a good portion of the valley had fog. Not enough fog to obscure sunrise or block the mountains, but enough low lying fog to help enhance the mood and atmospherics for sunrise. On top of that the pines and bright green grasses in the valley had plenty of dew and moisture on them which really helps make the color pop.
I worked my way up valley from south to north working a bunch of different compositions before and after sunrise. Like any of these beautiful mornings in Rocky, the conditions are fleeting. Within an hour or so of sunrise all the fog had dissipated and the sun was shining brightly. While one wishes the fog would have stuck around for a little longer its always a treat to get a few hours of fog in RMNP to transform the landscape into a mysterious and ethereal location ripe for landscape photographers.