Autumn And Ice

On the back end of our winter blast that hit Rocky Mountain National Park at the end of last week, fall color in the park is mostly done now. For photographers willing to search for some of the smaller scenes and vignettes in the nooks and crannies of RMNP, capturing the back end of the autum season is still possible. I found this menagerie of fall color frozen in a cascade along the slopes of Mount Wuh yesterday. Technical Details: Nikon Z7, Nikkor 24-70mm F4 S lens

It was fun while it lasted. Autumn was stunning this year in Rocky Mountain National Park. The elongated fall season that we experienced, with warm days and vibrant colors has mostly now come to an end. Thanks to an arctic blast which combined both wind and snow finding fall color in Rocky Mountain National Park has gotten a bit more difficult.

It’s still autumn in RMNP it’s just finding fall color to photograph takes quite a bit more work. For the most part almost all the deciduous plants have either dropped their leaves or they have turned brown from the cold temperatures. Some of the small ground plants still have some nice color but one is going to have to work a little harder on more intimate type scenes now to capture the back end of the fall season in Rocky.

With the exception of our blast of snow and cold last week, the weather is still fall like and spectacular in the park. Cool mornings that quickly warm once the sun rises are the norm. There are some icy spots on trails but for the most part one is able to access much of the park without having to pack a full compliment of winter gear.

After spending the morning in Moraine Park looking for some of the last vestiges of the elk rut, I headed up the Cub Lake trail to enjoy the beautiful conditions and investigate some of the nooks and crannies to see if there were any small patches of autumn color to be found.

While autumn color was mostly sparse along the cub lake trail, I did happen upon a small vignette that I just had to photograph. A small stream which runs down the side of Mount Wuh provided just what I was looking for.

The edges of the small cascade had frozen over. Aspen, mountain maples and narrow leaf cottonwood leaves had all recently fallen into the stream and become entombed in the recently formed ice. It’s rare enough to find all these leaves in such close proximity but the fact that I had variety combined with the contrasting warm colors of fall and the cool colors of the ice made me stop in my tracks and get the camera equipment out of the bag.

So while most of the fall color is now gone from Rocky Mountain National Park for the season, with some exploration and appreciation of some of the smaller vignettes of color that can be found in Rocky, one should be able to capture some of the more subtle fall scenes RMNP provides on the backend of the season.

Big Changes On The Way

As I write this, big changes are on the way to Rocky Mountain National Park. After a late, but elongated fall color season in the park, an October snowstorm with record low temperatures is settling in over Rocky. Yesterday, before the storm moved in over RMNP, I took advnatage of a beautiful day and spectacular sunrise to photograph what is likely to be the end of the fall color season. Sunrise over Longs Peak from Moraine Park yesterday morning was a jaw dropper and a great way to likely finish up on the autumn season. Technical Details: Nikon Z7, Nikkor 24-70mm F4 S lens

This autumn in Rocky was an unusual one. We got off to a very late start this season with many of the aspens remaining green long past the time they usually lose their leaves. A warm and dry late summer and early fall seemed to be the reason behind the late change in the foliage.

With fall color kicking off this year around the third week of September in the highest elevations, and with the warm and mild weather sticking around, the color remained very good in many parts of Rocky Mountain National Park into the second week of October. Normally, one would be looking for the last remnants of autumn gold in RMNP during the second week of October while lamenting on how quickly the season turns.

Furthermore, with the late start to fall, warm weather and lack of any early season snowstorms or cold through the second week of October, the fall color both hung on late but also remained colorful and vibrant. With the elongated fall, both the trees and the underbrush stuck around long enough so that they peaked simultaneously. Many years in RMNP, the timing with the understory and the tree canopy will occur at different times.

All in all its been an amazing fall color season in Rocky Mountain National Park and one of the more colorful but unusual ones I can remember in my twenty-one years of photographing in the park.

As of today, October 10th you can more or less stick a fork in the fall color season. While its still autumn and there are still going to be some great opportunities for landscape photography and wildlife photography in the next few months, a powerful and cold weather system has moved over the park.

While snow falling in Rocky Mountain National Park during October is nothing unusual, this front is going to pack some record low cold temperatures with it. Lows are expected to be in the single digits tonight, through Friday morning.

Normally, I would expect some of the foliage in Rocky to make it through an early season snowstorm. While there are still some trees that have yet to even turn and remain green, the single digit temperatures coming in on the back end of this front will more than likely put an end to the fall color season. Hopefully I’m wrong, but I’m going to guess that the foliage that remains in Rocky after this system moved through is going to turn brown on the account of the extremely cold early season temperatures.

I expect to be photographing some winter like scenes tomorrow morning in RMNP, but yesterday I spent as much time as I could taking advantage of one last day of peak fall color in the park. In fitting fashion, sunrise was stellar over the park. So while there is a bit of melancholy associated with the end of the fall color season, warmer weather is supposed to return to the area by the weekend and there still plenty of great opportunities for photographers before winter formally settles into Rocky.

Autumn’s Homestrech

The fall color in Rocky Mountain National Park is still looking great even with the first week of October behind us. I shot this image on the Bierstadt Moraine yesterday and color on Bierstadt is still looking great. Snow and very cold temperatures are moving in Thursday so I would expect these next few days to be autumn crescendo in RMNP. Technical Details: Nikon Z7, Nikkor 24-70mm F4 S

The fall color in Rocky Mountain National is still looking pretty good for the first week of October. We continue to experience a later than usual season with everything running about a week or so behind.

Winds late last week through parts of the weekends certainly did a number on the leaves at or near peak around the Bear Lake area and Hidden Valley but overall everything is still looking pretty good in areas below Bear Lake.

On a typical year in Rocky, I would expect almost all of the autumn color to be down or past peak in the higher elevations like Bear Lake, Bierstadt Moraine, Boulder Brook, Hidden Valley etc. Even lower elevations like Moraine Park and Horseshoe Park would be passing peak most years by this time though as always there are patches here and there that will hang on longer than others.

I expect the fall color to look pretty good through Wednesday of this week. After Wednesday all bets are off as it looks like Rocky Mountain National Park will get hit by an early season snowstorm combined with record cold temperatures on Thursday and Friday.

While there may be some interesting opportunities with the combination of snow and remaining fall color, I would expect whatever color makes it through Thursday and Friday is going to turn brown and fall from the hard freeze.

My advice at this point is if you want to photograph the remaining fall color in Rocky Mountain National Park, it would be best to get out there in the next 3 days and enjoy the end of what has been an awesome fall color season in RMNP albeit a late one. Don’t overlook the interesting opportunities that may present themselves on Thursday and Friday, just don’t forget to bring the winter coat and gloves.

Autumn Morning At Bear Lake

It was hard to beat the rainbow of fall colors on display yesterday morning at Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. Autumn continues to run behind schedule in RMNP and here we stand at Bear Lake on October 3rd, right at peak. This is easily a week behind what I would consider typical timing for autumn peak color at Bear Lake. Expect Rocky to have great color in locations through the middle of next week. Technical Details: Nikon Z7, Nikkor 24-70mm F4 s lens

Here we sit on October 4th in Rocky Mountain National Park with fall still in full swing. A mild and moderate fall continues and theres been lots of warm days with the nights getting cooler. With only one small dusting of snow above 12,000 ft since the autumn season started in RMNP, the autumn color in the park has taken its sweet time turning over.

Frankly, I have no issue with this as its been great being able to photograph much of Rocky’s fall color with my photography tour clients later into the season than is usual. The photo posted above from Bear Lake was taken on October 3rd. I would say Bear Lake is right at peak now or maybe a tad past. Typically, I anticipate photographing Bear Lake around the 22nd of September to take advantage of the best color. At nearly 9500 ft above sea level, Bear Lake is one of the first areas of Rocky Mountain National Park in which the aspens start to change.

Over a week past the anticipated timing of peak at Bear Lake and the colors look awesome still. Lower elevations of the park area really starting to come into their own as well now. About 50% of the Bierstadt Moraine has peaked and I would guess by the end of the weekend we should be looking as good as its going to get.

A caveat to all this is the forecast for the most part is calling for lots of clear skies and some windy days. I expect the wind forecast in the next few days to strip many of the leaves from the Bear Lake area but you can certainly expect to find fall colors well into next week. The early forecast for the end of the week in Rocky looks like we could see cooler temps and possibly some snow but expect good conditions with both the fall color as well as the elk rut through next week. See you out in the field!.