Bierstadt’s Light

Sunrise at Bierstadt Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
It was a perfect sunrise. All the elements came together and I was lucky enough to be on the shore of Bierstadt Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park to photograph it. It's rare enough for all the elements to cooperate and come together like this, but when photographing in conditons such as these, the experience is as exciting as the first sunrise I photographed. Albert Bierstadt was known for his dramatic landscape paintings. Bierstadt Lake provided and equally impressive light show this morning. Technical Details: Canon Eos 1Ds III, 24-105mm F4 IS L
I can only imagine Albert Bierstadt taking in this awesome sunrise at the lake in Rocky Mountain National Park, named in his honor. The lighting, clouds and color are reminiscent of the nineteenth century Hudson River School artist’s paintings.

Albert Bierstadt’s paintings of the American West, featured dramatic skies, clouds and mountains that helped to dramatize, some would say overly so, the landscapes of the early American West. There are two landmarks named after the famous Hudson River School painter in the state of Colorado. Mt. Bierstadt, and Rocky Mountain National Park’s Bierstadt Lake.

Bierstadt Lake lies atop the Bierstadt Moraine and boasts some of the best views of Hallet Peak, Flattop Mountain, Mt. Otis, Thatchtop, and Notchtop. At sunrise, Bierstadt Lake presents the photographer with impressive lighting and views of the these northeasterly facing peaks.

Bierstadt Lake is a fairly good size lake compared to the other lakes Alpine and Sub-Alpine lakes of Rocky. If you can happen to be at Bierstadt under the right conditions, with little wind and clouds floating over the famous peaks of Rocky Mountain National Park you can easily be transported into a scene that seems reminiscent of a Bierstadt painting.

This particular morning was just one of those very mornings at the lake. Bierstadt Lake is a favorite location of mine. I’ve photographed quite a few beautiful sunrises from the shores of Bierstadt. A large approaching storm from the west was starting to settle in over Rocky this day. This was a ‘calm before the storm’ moment. Even as the storm moved in, there was no wind present and the clouds had not yet moved far enough east to obscure the sunrise.

I setup my camera on my tripod and waited for the first rays of the morning to illuminate the peaks. As a photographer who has been lucky enough to witness and photograph many beautiful sunrise’s, I still get just as excited, if not more so when I’m on the cusp of photographing a location under what I believe is going to yield dramatic conditions and light. The anticipation and excitement as the scene unfolds is difficult to describe in words alone.

With the click of the shutter as the first rays of light hit the peaks, time seems to slow as the light show unfolds. In many ways for me, it’s like I’m not even photographing at all. It’s an experience and a feeling I don’t want to come to an end. As soon as it begins it’s just as quick to come to an end. The light fades and flattens and it’s time to pack up and hike out.

Albert Bierstadt’s paintings were often criticized for their overly dramatic and indulgent lighting, color and size of presentation. After morning’s like this at Bierstadt’s lake, I can deeply appreciate what Bierstadt was attempting to convey in his paintings. To those of us lucky enough to witness lighting such as this we know that Albert may have been too conservative in his presentation of his art and vision.

One thought on “Bierstadt’s Light

  1. Very beautiful shot!! Albert Bierstadt was an inspiring person like the Lake that bears his name.

Comments are closed.