March On Out

Hard to believe its already the last day of March and April 1st, baseball opening day will be here with us as soon as tomorrow. March 2021 in Rocky Mountain National Park was a great month. Lots of great opportunities to photograph snowy landscapes like this one I took of Otis Peak, Hallet Peak and Flattop Mountain from across Beaver Mountain and Mount Wuh after a light dusting of new snow. Technical Details: Nikon Z7, Nikkor 70-200mm F2.8 S lens

Hard to believe its the last day of March. I never know what to expect this time of year other than to expect there to be some interesting weather. Typically there is a lot of snow in March in Rocky Mountain National Park but last year that was not the case. We also tend to see a few days that are more summer/spring like than winter like. The kind of days that get you excited for the summer season which is quickly nearing.

March 2021 in RMNP will be remembered as a month which was a great improvement from March 2020. For one, we saw a lot more moisture and snow in March 2021 in Rocky than we did in 2020, but also for the fact that Rocky Mountain National Park was closed for much of March 2020 due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

So overall March 2021 was a pretty good month in Rocky. Lots of moisture, a handful of good snowstorms and some pretty good conditions for landscape photographers to work in. If I have any thing to complain about wrapping up this month, its that the exit timing of many of the March storms was a little off in that sunrise was often obscured or blocked by clouds when the most dramatic light would have occurred.

Looking back up at Thatchtop Mountain, The Sharkstooth and Taylor Peak from Upper Beaver Meadows, the 2nd to last day of March 2021 brought with it some light snow and good atmospherics to photograph the beautiful landscapes of RMNP. I’m hoping April 2021 will have just as many opportunities to photograph the changing landscape of Rocky as we move slow forward to my favorite season of summer in RMNP. Technical Details: Nikon Z7, Nikkor 70-200mm F2.8 S lens
On a positive note, many of the March storms saw the clearing occur shortly after sunrise and allowing for decent light, combined with still interesting atmospherics to photograph the snow covered landscape of Rocky Mountain National Park in. As your typical obsessed landscape photographer, I can always find one small issue here and there with the light, timing, amount of snow that I would liked to have seen occur differently but as my wife tells me, I cant get frustrated about things I have not control over.

It was a good month. March 2021 has me exited for April which also typically offers lots of opportunities to photograph more snowy landscapes in what is usually more moderate winter conditions. Some of our first wildflowers should also be sprouting under the base of Ponderosa trees soon (Pasque Flowers). Streams and even some of the lakes may start to see ice off as well in areas where the water is moving. Lots of dynamism to come from RMNP in the next month and as we hurdle towards summer its easy to stay motivated and excited for next visit to Rocky.

March Is Roaring

March this year in Rocky Mountain National Park has really been living up to its expectations as what is typically our wettest month of the year. After a slow start to March, it seems that one weather system after another has moved across the Front Range of Colorado and dumped snow on the region. This has been a boon for winter landscape photography. Earlier this week, I was able to capture Ypsilon Mountain getting some gap light as sunsrise broke in RMNP over snowy landscape. Technical Details: Nikon Z7, Nikkor 70-200mm F2.8 S lens

March came in like a gentle lamb but its certainly going out like a roaring lion. After an early start to March in Rocky Mountain National Park that looked a lot like it was going to be a dud of month snow wise, things changed fast. In the words of Ron Burgundy from the movie Anchor Man ‘That escalated quickly’.

Shoveling snow from the driveway may get old, but getting out in the field after a spring snow never does. Photography tour and workshop clients looking for winter images often ask me when the best time to photograph Rocky Mountain National Park is during the winter. My response is the best time for winter photography in Rocky is the spring months of March, April and May with a sprinkling of late September or early October when we usually get one of our first tastes of snowfall.

The unsettled weather patterns of spring, along with milder temperatures makes this time of year one of the best of winter like landscapes of RMNP. With the first week of March being mild, one weather impulse after another has been moving through the park. Seems like every other day or so the weather has been changing and snow has been falling on Rocky.

This our great to help make up for the deficit in moisture and water we have been experiencing since early last summer and its great for kicking the late winter photography doldrums and adding a little spark and excitement to expeditions out in the park.

Its hard not to love the drama and mood that is created this time of year in RMNP as storms move in and out of the mountains. Here 14,259 ft Longs Peak is seen playing peekaboo with the clouds as the sunrise illuminates the Diamond and summit of Longs Peak while the lower portions of Rocky Mountain National Park remain covered in shadow and fog. Technical Details: Nikon Z7, Nikkor 70-200mm F2.8 S lens
Not every weather impulse of snowstorms timing over Rocky Mountain National Park makes it ideal for photography, but its always worth taking the chance and making sure you’re in Rocky when the sun rises.

One thing I find about shooting landscapes in RMNP this time of year is that even during some of the strongest winter storms that move through, there are often breaks and pauses in the systems that allow for the sun to make a brief appearance or a dramatic sunrise to break before the snow picks back up again. Inversions and fog also seem to be more commonplace this time of year as well which helps to add to that subtle drama and mystery we all seek in our landscape photography.

As it stands of this writing, the unsettled pattern looks to continue through the end of March which is good news. We are getting close to setting some records for the wettest recorded March on history which is sure saying something considering it is typically the wettest month during the season here in Colorado. Heres to looking forward to another opportunity or two here in March and more of the same as we head into April in RMNP.

Stormed Out!

Well our big March snowstorm in Rocky Mountain National Park has moved on out leaving a heaping of fresh snow in its path. As I was just saying a few blog posts ago, too much snow is a bad thing for landscape photographers. Sometimes a few inches of fresh snow are better than the 2 foot plus of snow RMNP received during this past March blizzard. With so much snow falling, the NPS had to close nearly every road in the park in order to plow and keep visitors safe. The end result of this big storm is that when there was finally enough access to Rocky, it was quite limited. Yesterday was the first morning I was able to get back into the park. Being that it was St. Patricks Day and the mountains were covered in clouds and snow, I used the opportunity to photograph Horseshoe Park. Here the colors of the Irish can be seen with orange willows, white snow and green pines covered in fresh snow from the weekend storm. Technical Details: Nikon Z7, Nikkor 200-500mm F5.6 AF-S VR Lens

Well our big March blizzard came and went and in the process dropped over two feet of fresh snow on Rocky Mountain National Park. With a little less than half the month of March left, its possible that we will certainly have more snow though not quite as likely to have as much as this past storm.

As I just wrote about in the blog a few columns back, big snowstorms aren’t always conducive to landscape photography. I stated in the column that sometimes a few inches of the fresh white stuff is better than feet of snow falling and this latest storm was a case in point.

By the time the storm had cleared out on Monday morning, anywhere between 20 and 30+ inches of snow had fallen on the northern Front Range towns and foothills of Colorado. We had a spectacular sunrise down here in Erie as the Boulder Flatirons were covered in snow and clouds over the peaks turned pink along with the skies as the sun rose over the tundra like landscape.

Of course I was out all ready to photograph the said beautiful sunrise after the historic storm?, nope. Not because I did not want to head out but between shoveling through the four foot drifts on my driveway and the fact that all the side roads and streets had also not been touched by plows along with parking lots there was no way to get out to photograph the sunrise as the storm departed. There was just too much snow, too fast for the plow operators and maintenance people to keep up with. I was snowbound for the morning and had to watch this beautiful sunrise unfold from the confines of my office where I suffered from a serious case of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out).

The same problem was occurring up the hill in Rocky Mountain National Park. While the mountains in Rocky Mountain National Park remained covered in clouds and snow flurries, the National Park Service closed access to Rocky Mountain National Park down on Sunday so that the plows could work safely.

A very small section of RMNP reopened by Tuesday afternoon on the east side of the park. US 36 to Deer Ridge Jct. and US 34 through Fall River entrance were open. All other areas were closed leaving only a very small section of the park that one could photograph. As of this writing on the morning of 3/18, Bear Lake Road is still closed and being plowed and the NPS is reporting there is 63 inches of new snow that has fallen at Bear Lake.

So while this was a great storm for precipitation which we desperately need in Rocky, it was a terrible storm if one wanted to photograph snowy landscapes or just gain access to the trail system and backcountry area. Good news is that Sunday through Tuesday of next week look unsettled and hopefully we have more snow, but not so much that roads and access are closed off making photography impossible.

Snow Inbound

March in Rocky Mountain National Park has been pretty queit so far. It’s typically one of our snowiest months and current forecasts are calling for the potential for a classic spring snowstorm to setup towards the end of the week. I’m looking forward to it as we could use some more snow and moisture in Rocky moving forward. So far this week its been mild as it was yesterday when I photographed this beautiful sunrise over Moraine Park. You can see the burn scar from the East Troublesome Fire in the lower middle portion of the image. A big snowstorm will only help to mitigate this potential moving towards our summer season. Technical Details: Nikon Z7, Nikkor 24-70mm F2.8 S lens

March has entered like lamb. If weather forecasts hold it looks like it will want to stick around like a lion for awhile here. Forecasts currently call for snow to begin towards the end of the week in Rocky Mountain National Park with the potential for heavy snows occurring through this weekend.

This is great news for Colorado and Rocky Mountain National Park. February was a good month for moisture and to be able to compound it with a big snow dump in March would be great. March is typically our snowiest month, though in recent years March has actually underperformed. A good spring blizzard feels like a Colorado tradition and a right of passage that every new resident to the state or visitor to the state should experience.

A couple days of good heavy, wet snow followed by warm sunshine and a quick melt off is always welcome here even though many of us are getting the itch for summer and warmer weather to return to RMNP.

The snow and weather changing should help to present some good photography opportunities moving forward. Photographing the storm during and after should lead to some good potential winter images, but the moisture from these storms will help get the rivers flowing, the wildflowers blooming this summer and hopefully keep our fire damage down as we enter the warmer months.

Frankly, by this time of the season, as a photographer I think we are all just looking for some new opportunities to open up as we start to grow tired of the brown season in the lower elevations of RMNP.

Getting a big dump of snow is great, but as I stated in my blog post last week, 3 inches or 3 feet of snow does not really make much of a difference when it comes to actually photography. In fact, if we do get a big dump of snow (some forecasts are saying 2+ feet), it may be difficult or impossible to travel around the park and local roads.

So at this point we will just wait it out and see what develops in the coming week. We certainly will be getting snow in Rocky Mountain National Park, the only question is just how much, will travel be possible and will those westerly winds that follow these storms hold off long enough to give us a window or two to photograph the landscape before blowing the snow off the pines. All I can say at this point is stay tuned!.

In Like A Lion Or In Like A Lamb?

March is already here and 2021 is moving right along at a breakneck pace. Is March coming in like a Lamb or a Lion?. So far its been quiet but March is one of the best months to photograph winter landscapes in Rocky Mountain National Park. While I shot this image of Longs Peak from Hollowell Park last week, weather conditions and improved lighting as the sun moves north all make March a great month to photograph in RMNP. Technical Details: Nikon Z7, Nikkor 24-70mm F4 S Lens

I cant believe its already March. Winter is flying by and summer is tangible with it right on the horizon. March is an interesting month here in Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s our snowiest month and one of the best time of the year to hunt for winter landscapes and fresh snow. You can get a taste of all four seasons in March but the one is more likely to get the full brunt of a winter powder dump in March than any other time of the year.

So far March 2021 in Rocky Mountain National Park has come in like a lamb. They early weather pattern looks fairly mild over the next week with a few chances for some light snow. We need the moisture here in Colorado and we have slowly been working our way back towards normalcy as winter winds down. Snowpack in Rocky is at about 90% of what it should be right now. Thats pretty decent considering how dry its been since the fall.

Even if we get some of our classic March blizzards and snow dumps we are still going to have a very difficult time getting our snowpack back to 100% for this season. Because March is our snowiest month, catching up to at or near 100% normal snowpack will be very difficult as we would need a lineup of large storms to really dump on the area in an above average pattern.

Still we can remain positive knowing we have made up some of the deficit and while I would say it’s likely we enter the summer months at a slight disadvantage, we should still be looking better than we were at the start of 2021.

More importantly, it’s a good time to plan a trip to RMNP if one is looking towards capturing winter landscape images. The storms this time of year tend to be packed full of moisture but they also tend to move out quickly which opens up opportunity for snow covered landscapes, fog and dramatic lighting if one’s in the right place at the right time.

One other benefit to capturing the snow covered landscapes this time of year in Rocky is that the lighting angles on the east side of the park are really improving. Many of the classic Rocky Mountain National Park landscapes have peaks that face north and east. As the sun rises further north on the horizon each morning as we head towards summer, the lighting gets better on the northeast face of Longs Peak, Hallett Peak, Taylor Peak and Notchtop.

Contrary to the middle of winter when the sun is rising at its southernmost point, these iconic locations will be getting nice frontal lighting now. In the middle of winter mountaintops such as Longs Peak and Hallett Peak will be mostly in shade or side lit when the sun rises leading to long shadows and often poor lighting.

Keep an eye on the weather and be prepared for just about anytime of weather this time of year. If you want winter landscapes to add to your photography portfolio, March and April are the months to circle your calendar and keep your winter gear tucked in the back of your vehicle. With a little luck we can improve the snowpack and our winter portfolios all in one shot. Good luck!.