This time of year can be a difficult one for photography in and around Rocky Mountain National Park. Storm systems move over the east side of the park bringing with them high winds and little snow.
Furthermore, the most popular areas and peaks on the east side of Rocky around Bear Lake and Glacier Gorge have a northeast facing orientation. With the sun rising well to the south, the peaks around Bear Lake and Glacier Gorge only have portions of their granite monoliths in favorable lighting with many of them remaining in deep shadows. This makes most of the iconic locals in Rocky Mountain National Park less than favorable for prime light during the shortest days of the year.
Even so there are plenty of subjects and compositions to experiment with. The winds that seem omnipresent this time of year in Rocky create interesting lighting and effects around the high peaks. Blowing snow is a constant and typically there are clouds socked in and around the continental divide. This combination can make for an interesting subject, especially if the photographer does not mind being blown about by the wind while trying to make images.
The winds rake the ridgelines and clouds and blowing snow follow the winds lead. Sunrise may be somewhat muted by the clouds and blowing snow but paying attention to the ridgelines and clouds, compositions and potential is endless. The blowing snow creates a low contrast, impressionistic feel to the icy mountainsides.
While December may not be the best time to photograph Rocky Mountain National Park, possibilities abound if you don’t mind being tossed around by the wind and trying to time your shots between gusts. Try to think of the unique possibilities this time of year presents and ignore the fact that your parked car is shaking back and forth like a top when your getting ready to head out from the Bear Lake parking lot and enjoy the season.