Bouncing Around Boulder

Artic cold has settled in over the Front Range of Colorado this week. While its chilly out, the change in weather has really opened up opportunities to photograph some dramatic conditions for a change. I’ve been out all week trying to get myself in the most favorable locations based on the weather and cloud layer. This particular morning, Walker Ranch above Boulder was a perfect spot to photograph the inversion layer and the backside of South Boulder Peak. Technical Details: Nikon Z7, Nikkor 24-70mm F4 S lens
As I sit here in my office and write this post its currently a chilly one degrees fahrenheit outside. A cold arctic blast has settled over the Front Range of Colorado bringing winter roaring back. While i’d prefer to see it a little warmer out, I can really complain about the change in weather for two reason.

For one, we’ve barely had much of winter here on the Front Range to speak of. It’s been mild and dry and we really need to start playing catch up on our moisture and snowpack. Secondly, the change in weather brings with it great opportunities for photographers looking for dramatic conditions and spectacular light and atmospherics. All those mild and dry days we’ve had so far this season have made for so ho-hum lighting conditions in what is typically a difficult season to photograph as is.

When the weather changes around here and the dominant weather pattern changes to an upslope flow on the Front Range, winds out of the east northeast bring with them snow, fog and inversions.

Fresh snow on the landscape with clouds and fog will spice up any landscape photographers day but get yourself in the right location in regards to the inversion of clouds caused by the upslope flow and you are all set to take the drama up another notch.

When chasing and photographing inversions on the Front Range of Colorado, the important part is figuring out at what altitude the cloud layer or inversion is at, and then figuring out how to get yourself in a position to be just above the layer of clouds. You can have ideas where you want to shoot and you may have a checklist of locations you want to shoot when conditions are right, but the weather is ultimately going to determine where you end up.

Some days when I’m out chasing the weather and trying to get above the inversion of clouds, the elevation of the inversion puts me high up in Rocky Mountain National Park. Other mornings, the layer is lower and I’m bouncing around the foothills just west of Boulder working on getting above the clouds so that I can see and photograph the light when the sun rises above the horizon.

The following day after photographing at Walker Ranch, the cloud and inversion layer settled a little lower than the previous day. This particular morning, Walker Ranch was free of fog and clouds but a little lower down Flagstaff Mountain was looking good. About 3 miles up Flagstaff Mountain just above downtown Boulder, I was able to get above the inversion layer again and photograph the north side of the Flatirons with Gregory Canyon covered in fog. Technical Details: Nikon Z7, Nikkor 24-70mm F4 S lens
With the big changes this week we had a couple of good days of inversions, fog, snow and rime ice on the trees. So far this week the weather has been such that the best locations have not been up in Rocky Mountain National Park but in the lower elevations and foothills just around Boulder. The inversion did not creep up the the foothills high enough to reach RMNP this week and most mornings settled between 6000 and 7000 ft.

This put Walker Ranch as the best area to photograph one morning, and Flagstaff Mountain just west of downtown Boulder as the best place to photograph the second morning this week. While Rocky had some snow, the winds were mostly out of the west at higher elevations obscuring the mountains and pushing the upslope flow with east northeast winds below Estes Park and back up against the high plains of Colorado.

This arctic weather is going to stick around for a few more days. Every morning I’ll be out checking web cams and trying to figure out where the best spots are going to be and if I can even get above the cloud layer for dramatic photography. Regardless, it’s great to see some moisture and change and typically speaking, this pattern tends to strengthen more as we had towards spring. Either way, these mornings albeit cold, can make for some great photography if you can get yourself in the right location.