Weather Whipsaw

So far this autumn there seems to be only two speeds when it comes to the weather on the Front Range of Colorado and Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s either beautiful or snowy and cold. This weather whipsaw is creating great opportunities for landscape photographers. Yesterday, I greeted Monday morning with cold temps and fresh snow in Rocky. With the fast moving storm moving out right out sunrise, Notchtop, Knobtop, Gabeltop and the Little Matterhorn caught some nice light with the landscape covered in fresh snow. Technical Details: Nikon Z7, Nikkor 70-200mm F4 AF-S VR lens

Can you think of a better way to start a Monday morning than to find a few inches of fresh snow falling?. Most would probably pass on starting their week this way but I’m certainly happy to take it.

In what’s become a Jekyll and Hyde autumn in Rocky Mountain National Park it’s only become par for the course to expect either a beautiful warm day, or very cold temperatures and snow. We seem to be lacking when it comes to the transition of the season from autumn to winter.

It’s not unusual to being seeing snow this time of year in Rocky Mountain National Park and already this fall we’ve had as I count them, four good snowfalls in Rocky with another decent one in late August that covered the high peaks above 12,000 ft. Whipsaw like weather here on the Front Range of Colorado is nothing new, but while it creates headaches from commuters and travelers, it makes for great opportunities for landscape photographers.

One of my most common requests from workshop and photography tour clients is to capture Christmas card like scenes in Rocky after a fresh snow. Most visitors and photographers to Rocky Mountain National Park assume it’s quite easy to capture postcard scenes of Rocky draped in fresh snow.

As one who believes in both transparency and managing expectations, I spend a lot of time explaining to prospective clients that capturing winter scenes in RMNP is one of the harder things to do. As I’ve stated in past blog posts, winds, sun and either too much snow or too little snow often conspire to throw a wet blanket on photographers well laid plans to capture images of snow in Rocky Mountain National Park.

One other item I like to tell clients looking to photograph snowy scenes in Rocky is that the best times to do so are often fall and late spring. This is because fall and late spring are very transitional in Rocky. Not only do we often get unsettled weather during these periods, but access and overall conditions such as open water are better than the middle of winter.

So with this season off to a decent start as far as opportunities go for photographing snowy scenes in Rocky Mountain National Park, I was more than happy to wake up Monday morning to fresh snow on the ground with more falling.

The forecast called for clearing right around sunrise so it was as good a morning as any to get out and take my chances with the weather and clearing storm. So while we had weather in the 60’s and 70’s on Saturday and Sunday in the Boulder area, Monday morning greeted me with snow and a cold 11 degrees fahrenheit.

With that said, all I could think as I scraped the ice and snow off my truck before heading the 45 miles up the hill to Estes Park was ‘what a way to start the week’. Hopefully our pattern of whipsaw weather continues because as a landscape photographer, I’m certainly enjoying all the opportunity.

Freeze And Thaw

November is a transitional season in Rocky Mountain National Park. A mix of just about anytype of weather can lead to lots of opportunities for landscape photographers. It’s a quiet time in the park as the summer crowds have moved on. I photographed this image yesterday morning in Moraine Park. The Big Thompson River is partially frozen and the cycle of freeze and thaw will continue until winter really settles into RMNP. Technical Details: Nikon Z7, Nikkor 24-70mm F4 S lens

As I write this blog post, summer and autumn seem like long distance memories at this point. It was only a month ago that I was out enjoying our late season autumn color. Fall took it sweet time to arrive this year in Rocky Mountain National Park, but winter certainly wasn’t going to provide the same courtesy.

As of early November, Rocky Mountain National Park is already 3 good snow events into the middle of autumn. From a landscape photographers perspective, were more or less into the winter season. The snow is going to stay on the high peaks from now until June and the lakes will remained covered in ice through May,June and July depending on their elevations.

One can still find a few open pockets of water here and there and with a few warm days thrown in here and there, it may remain so for some of November. It’s an interesting time of year to photograph Rocky Mountain National Park. The crowds are gone and so are many of the photographers who make their appearances each fall for the fall colors and elk rut.

Even though much of the park is now frozen and or snow covered, I enjoy shooting in Rocky this time of year. Sunrises and sunsets can be amazing this time of year. In fact the quality of light with the low sun angle is spectacular. Get the right conditions and you may be able to photograph one of the most colorful sunrises or sunsets all year.

November is also a great time of year to capture winter landscapes. The caveat with photographing winter scenes in Rocky is always the timing. On account of the winds and sun, the snow wont hang around very long on the pine trees, or ice covered surfaces of the lakes. One needs a little bit of luck regarding the timing of the storm and what time it exits the area and brings in high winds on the backside of the front and sun which quickly melts snow even in the middle of winter.

Overall, November can be a very exciting time to photograph Rocky. You get a little bit of everything this time of year without the crowds found during the summer months. On top of that, sunrises and sunsets are some of the best and a well timed snowstorm is always a possibility as we move through the brown season into the winter season in RMNP.