Shaping Up To Be A Banner Year For RMNP!

It’s shaping up to be a banner year for wildflowers in Rocky Mountain National Park. After a very snowy winter and a wet spring, we are being rewarded with some awesome wildflower displays early in the season. Moraine Park looks amazing right now with Golden Banner growing all through the meadow as seen here during yesterdays sunrise. Now is a great time to get out and photograph RMNP. Technical Details: Nikon Z7, Nikkor 17-28mm F2.8 lens

Sure I’ll be a little cliche here and say it. It’s a banner year for Golden Banner in Rocky Mountain National Park. These beautiful yellow wildflowers that grow in clumps and appear in the early part of the spring through mid summer depending on your elevation and now budding up all over Rocky’s middle elevations.

While the arrival of wildflowers in Colorado and RMNP is always a welcome sign that summer and warmer weather is approaching, this years bloom on the east side of Rocky Mountain National Park has been the best that I have witnessed in my 26 years photographing the park.

Right now, Moraine Park, Horseshoe Park, along with the hillsides of Upper Beaver Meadow have beautiful patches of Golden Banner proliferating in a manner I have not witnessed. It’s a photographers delight as one can take their pick of vantage points and work in the beautiful yellow wildflowers.

To date, the best area right now is Moraine Park. Huge groups of Golden Banner can be found just about anywhere in the lush green meadows. Rocky’s snowy winter and wet spring are really paying dividends for us photographers as the weather is now quickly warming.

While Moraine Park looks great for landscapes, its also teeming with wildlife right now as the elk take advantage of the greening grasses. While photogrpahing sunrise, this group of elk watched me with curiosity as I setup in front of this huge clump of Golden Banner growing in the meadow. Technical Details: Nikon Z8, Nikkor 500mm F5.6 PF lens
While the Golden Banner are the main attractions, lots of other wildflowers are revealing themselves in the same areas. Wild Iris, often growing in or near the patches of Golden Banner look great on the east side of the park as do a handful of other wildflowers such as White Evening Primrose and Marsh Marigolds. Calypso Orchids should be out now as well though I have not seen or photographed any as of yet.

These are the early season wildflowers in Rocky Mountain National Park but we should start to see the summer blooms gaining traction over the next few weeks as the remaining snow melts and the days continue to be long and warm. Columbine, Paintbrush and Alpine Sunflowers will all be covering the hillsides shortly.

This is my favorite time of year. Summer is short in Rocky and it’s fleeting nature and beauty or both exhilarating to explore and photograph each year but also a little solemn knowing that it will be short lived and one can only be present for so many sunrise and or sunsets in the park before the weather begins to turn cooler.

So now is the time to get out in RMNP and explore, enjoy summers warm embrace and all the rebirth and beauty that comes with it. Don’t waste a minute but make sure to enjoy every aspect of this awesome time of year before looking back and wondering where all the time went. Hope to see you out enjoying and photographing my favorite time in the park.

Rolling Over To The West Side Of Rocky

With Trail Ridge Road open for the season again, I’m going to end up spending a decent amount of time photographing on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park. This morning, I headed over to the Kawuneeche Valley to photography this locations. It’s only a few weeks before the water recedes and the grasses grow so high as to block out the reflection of Baker Mountain so this morning seemed like as good a morning as any to photograph this location. Technical Details: Nikon Z7II, Nikkor 24-120mm F4 S lens

Once Trail Ride Road opens for the season, it feels like you get access to an entirely new national park. The west side of Rocky Mountain National Park feels a lot different than the east side. It’s significantly colder, wetter and to me at least always feels a little more primal than the east side. Wildlife abounds, lakes, streams and forest are teeming on this side of the park.

While I try to visit and photograph a variety of locations in Rocky, year after year one will often find themselves in the same or similar locations. Often, many of these locations are best photographed at certain times of year and thus, you tend to take advantage of the conditions and end up in certain areas more often than not.

This location in the Kawuneeche Valley is just one of those locations. With the Colorado River overflowing with snowmelt, this meadow floods and this small pond acts as a perfect spot to photograph Baker Mountain reflecting above the valley. This spot also almost always has a handful or more of Moose milling around. A month from now, much of this water will have receded and the grasses grown so high that a reflection is no longer possible or mostly obscured.

So it has become a tradition of sorts to spend more than a few mornings in the Kawuneeche Valley on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park photographing the overflowing Colorado River before it quickly recedes. It’s also a nice break from the east side of the park where I easily spend 70% of my time, especially during the winter months once Trail Ridge closes for the seasons.

After photographing the Kawuneeche Valley, I headed into Grand Lake to see whats going on in town this season. I was walking along the beach and wandered over to the town dock where I took this photo of the sun hitting the dock and lighting the lime green aspen trees in the background that had just leafed out. Baldly looking as regal as ever in the background with a mostly calm Grand Lake looking as beautiful as ever. Technical Details: Nikon Z7II, Nikkor 24-120mm F4 S lens

After hanging out on the west side, I took a ride into Grand Lake just to see how things look. Grand Lake is my favorite town in all of Colorado, and spending a little time along the shore drinking a coffee on a cool morning is one of life’s joys. Just as I arrived at the beach, the sun rose above the ridge and over the North Inlet and illuminated the town dock. The aspens in background have just leafed out and are a brilliant green, especially when side lit like this morning.

So I’ll be spending a decent amount of time the next few weeks exploring and photographing the west side of RMNP. Of course this time of year I alway joke that I wish I could be in about ten locations at any given time and more often than not I’m going to try to be where I think the best light is. Hopefully, a few mornings that light is over on the west side!.

Old Man Winter Makes His First Appearence

Its hard to believe but winter made its first appearance in the high country of Rocky Mountain Natinonal Park yesterday. Mark down September 11th, 2023 as our first signifigant snowfall of the season. Here we are looking over Forest Canyon towards the Never Summer Range of RMNP while the sunlight glows at the bottom of Mount Cumulus and Nimbus. Technical Details: Nikon Z7II, Nikkor 100-400 F4-5.6 S lens

Well it happened. Mark it down, yesterday was the first snow of the season in Rocky Mountain National Park. While its actual not that early or even that unusual as we can pretty much see snow almost anytime of year at the highest of elevations, late summer and early fall snow brings with it a different feeling.

Late spring snows can be annoying. Your ready for summer, warm weather and snow free trails only to get a foot of heavy, wet powder dropped on you. While its annoying, you know its going to melt fast and warmer days are right around the corner.

With the first snow of the season in the late summer or early fall, that feeling is a little more somber, at least to those of use who no longer look forward to ski season (blasphemy I know!). That first snow brings with it a feeling of finality, a stoppage to summer and a signaling that a long cold winter will soon be blanketing Rocky Mountain National Park.

The first snow of the seasons is a reminder, that summer and fall seasons in Rocky are short and sweet. You have to get out and photograph them as much as you can and bask in each and every warm, and beautiful summer sunrise and or sunset. Even when you are holed up in your tent cursing the skies as you wait out a summer monsoon thunderstorm, you know sooner than later, the pad you have your tent sent up on will soon be covered in feet of snow.

Even with all these changes occurring, the first snow of the season still elects excitement. It’s something new and different and it affords the landscape photographer a chance to make images of snow covered landscapes that might be difficult or near impossible during the winter season.

Yesterday morning, i was taken off-guard by the new snow that had fallen. It had been raining hard the night before and when I checked the radar I could see some blue(snow) mixed in with the green(rain) on the weather map. Nothing unusual, even for summer months but I casually though that maybe the summit of Longs Peak would see its first dusting of the season.

Hiding behind Specimen Mountain, Mount Richtofen peaks above the ridgeline as the sun illuminates the landscape of Rocky Mountain National Park now covered in snow. While its not all that early for snow in Rocky, its always a wake up call for us photographers as well as lovers of RMNP. Technical Details: Nikon Z7 II, Nikkor 100-400mm F4-5.6 S lens
When I arrived in RMNP about 4:00 AM to scout out the conditions on a dark night, I could make out what looked like snow on Longs Peak. Looks like we had a little more than a dusting so I headed up Trail Ridge Road to see if I could get myself in a good spot to photograph Longs Peak covered in fresh snow. Just below Rainbow Curve I was surprised to see what looked like some light accumulation of snow around 10,000 ft. Rounding out over Hanging Valley, we now had plenty.

Snow quickly appeared on Trail Ridge and I slowly made my way up the icy road that would have certainly been closed by Park Rangers if the snow had not fallen in the middle of the night. As soon as Rangers got on duty and saw the conditions, they did indeed close Trail Ridge Road down for a few hours until conditions improved. I made my way up to the Rock Cut knowing this was not only a good place for a near 360 degree view for photography, but also one that if the NPS closed the road I would not get stuck on the west side of the park for.

Clouds rolled back in over the divide and Longs Peak but the aptly named Never Summer Mountains stayed cloud free and even got a few brief minutes of sunshine at sunrise. I was able to photograph Mount Cumulus and Nimbus with a little bit of dappled light as well as the top of Mount Richtofen and Static Peak before the sun backed under the cloud cover again.

An exciting morning it proved to be as Park Rangers raced up Trail Ridge Road while I was heading down so they could get the road closed down before anymore people tried to challenge the icy conditions. Even though it was and exciting and productive morning, there was a tinge or sorrow knowing my beloved high country summer was being extinguished slowly by old man winter.

Its Never Summer!

These past two weeks, I’ve been spening quite a bit of time photographing the area of Rocky Mountain National Park around the Never Summer Mountains. The weather and light in this area have been cooperating and its been inspiring and motivating photographing this beautiful part of Rocky Mountain National Park. In this image, regal Mount Richthofen glows in the early morning light over the Never Summer Range. Dont be afraid to get out and revisit the same locales multiple times for best results. Technical Details: Nikon Z7 II, Nikkor 24-120mm F4 IS S lens

Actually, it’s most definitely summer. Even after our cooler and wetter than usual summer here in Colorado, it feels like August. My current muse or passion in Rocky Mountain National Park has been the Never Summer Mountain Range where the lighting and scenery have been spectacular.

It’s a secret I’ve shared with my readers and clients I guide in the park, that I often go back multiple times to the same location to both capture images in ideal light I may have missed during my initial visit, or just to capture the scene in different lighting or weather conditions. Often, one has a preconceived idea how they image the shot will look, thats often not how it shakes out in the end however.

The Never Summer Range is situated both inside Rocky Mountain National Park as well as extending north and west outside the park boundaries. It’s a prominent and distinctive range and one that most visitors to RMNP admire from along Trail Ridge Road, specifically the Gore Range Overlook, the Alpine Visitor Center and Medicine Bow Curve.

The Never Summer range takes its name from the Arapaho tribes who referred to the range as the Never No Summer range as snow could almost always be found on the range. The Never Summers as they are affectionately referred to now, where also once considered part of the Medicine Bow range but in deference to the indigenous people of the region, renamed the Never Summer Mountains back in the 1920’s.

Virga floats over the Never Summer Range at sunrise. Howard Mountain, Cirrus and Nimbus glow in the early morning light high above Poudre Lake and Lake Irene. Technical Details: Nikon Z7, Nikkor 24-120mm F4 IS S lens
I’ll always check the weather forecast before heading out, loosely basing what I’m planning on photographing based on where and when I think the best light, clouds and atmospherics will be. These past few weeks, the best lighting in the morning has been over the Never Summers and thats where I’ve spend a good deal of my past mornings enjoying the scenery so to speak.

Familiarity with an area breeds success, so don’t be afraid to keep working a certain location so that you can become acquainted with the light, landscape and local. One of the keys to making better images is to connect and truly know your subject. So while we all want to photograph new locations and see new exotic places, spend time getting to know and area and your photography will begin to see improvements and gains in both your photography and images of that location.

The Magnigicent Marigold

Hard to beat a serene summer morning at an alpine tarn here in Rocky Mountain National Park. Watching this sunrise evolve the other morning is why summers in RMNP are just about my favorite time of year. Sure the title of this post is a little dramatic but enjoying the short but spectacular summer in RMNP makes one prone to a bit of hyperbole now and again. Technical Details: Nikon Z7 II, Nikkor 14-24mm F2.8 S lens
Just packing up here for a quick overnighter in the backcountry. I’m going to head out to Mirror Lake for a night to photograph sunrise and sunset. I’m excited to get back out to Mirror Lake because I have not been back there since 2020, just a few weeks before the Cameron Peak fire roared through the Hagues Creek drainage and part of the northeast side of Rocky Mountain National Park. The NPS finally reopened the trail and access to Mirror Lake for the first time this year, so when I saw an opening for a permit I jumped at it.

Last year while camping at Lawn Lake, I hiked up to the Saddle and surveyed the area from high above Hagues Creek. It’s devastating to look at but already Hagues Creek drainage had begun to grow back. The trees are mostly burnt now, but the grasses were a vibrant green which made the view a little more easy to digest.

What I could see from that trip is the fire stayed below Mirror Lake. The Mummy Pass trail is closed but access to Mirror Lake is now open and I believe the area directly around Mirror Lake should be as pristine and beautiful as it was when I was last there in 2020.

Alternatively, most parts of Rocky Mountain National Park are in prime summer season right now. It looks like our monsoon season which has picked up this week and is really supposed to intensify next week should bring some great opportunities for dramatic sunrise and sunsets in the coming days. This is the time of year when days are long, and the hikes are hard but you push through because you can always take a break once the fall seasons ends. I’ll be out as much as possible the next few weeks basking in all or the glory of a Rocky Mountain summer which is as sweet as it is short.

In the meantime, here’s a sunrise image from Wednesday up at Marigold Ponds which exemplifies the beauty found in RMNP during the summer months. Other than being hounded by our mosquitos, waiting on the shoreline of this small tarn for the sun to rise is about as good as it can get. Have a great week and hope you all are enjoying your summer.

Backpacking in the Upper East Inlet of RMNP

I just returned from a few days in the backcountry of Rocky Mountain National Park photographing some of the more remote locations in the Upper East Inlet section on the west side of RMNP. Spirit Lake is one of the most beautiful locations in all of RMNP, and this nights sunset did not dissapoint as the light scattered on the Fleur de Lis. Technical Details: Nikon Z7 II, Nikkor 14-24mm F2.8 S lens.
I just returned from a few days in the backcountry of Rocky Mountain National Park photographing some of the more remote locations in the Upper East Inlet section on the west side of RMNP. Spirit Lake is one of the most beautiful locations in all of RMNP, and this nights sunset did not dissapoint as the light scattered on the Fleur de Lis. Technical Details: Nikon Z7 II, Nikkor 14-24mm F2.8 S lens.

It’s prime backcountry and backpacking season in Rocky right now. Almost all the snow is gone though there is still some to be found here in there in a shaded nook or cranny. The wildflowers are in full bloom as are the mosquitos. Even so, its one of my favorite times of year in Rocky Mountain National Park.

When the backpacking lottery comes around March 1st every year, summer seems like its forever off. Even though March 1st is still right in the middle of the winter season, one can start dreaming of where they are going to try and land backcountry sites at and what the conditions will be like when the actual date finally rolls around.

You can plan all you want for the backcountry lottery, but usually you have to be pretty quick on the draw to get sites you want. You need to have a plan B ready to go as once your first pick if gone, you can’t wait long for your second or third. Sometimes you go to your old reliables, places you have been many times but can never explore or photograph enough.

That was the case with my first pick this year of the Upper East Inlet backcountry site. I’ve camped at both Solitaire and Upper East Inlet multiple times in the past and can never get enough of the area east of Lake Verna. Ironically, no matter how hard I’ve tried, I’ve never been able to land a permit to camp at the Lake Verna backcountry site.

The morning before heading up the East Inlet, I spent the morning attempting to chase any breaks in the cloud cover at sunrise. As I drove through the Kawuneeche Valley, the fog along the Colorado River was awesome and small breaks in the clouds had the hillsides bathing in sunlight here and there. Technical Details: Nikon Z7 II, Nikkor 100-400mm F4-5.6 S lens
The morning before heading up the East Inlet, I spent the morning attempting to chase any breaks in the cloud cover at sunrise. As I drove through the Kawuneeche Valley, the fog along the Colorado River was awesome and small breaks in the clouds had the hillsides bathing in sunlight here and there. Technical Details: Nikon Z7 II, Nikkor 100-400mm F4-5.6 S lens

So finally on July 20th, the date arrived for my first backpacking trip of the year in Rocky. I arrived at the East Inlet trailhead a little before 8:00 AM. I had been in the park since 4:00 AM prepared to photograph sunrise. Large thunderstorms had been rolling across RMNP all night and a good amount of rain had fallen. The sun managed to spot light a few areas through the fog in the Kawuneeche Valley, but rain and clouds quickly moved back in so I photographed what I could and then headed over to the East Inlet TH to make the six plus mile trek up to the Upper East Inlet site.

It was fairly warm and wet when I headed through East Meadow on my way towards the climb up to Lake Verna via the Devils Staircase. The mosquitoes couldn’t get enough of me as I walked through the grass meadow. With dozens of mosquitoes converging on my arms and legs at the same time I had to stop and break out the bug spray. Normally, I try not to use any repellant until I absolutely have to. This was one of those situations, and as I hastily dropped my pack and grabbed for the repellant, I said to myself ‘if this does not work I’m turning around and bailing right now’. Happily, the Deep Woods Off did its job and the mosquitoes disappeared.

After making the tough trip up the Devils Staircase with my heavy pack, I stopped to take a break at Lone Pine Lake and photograph the iconic little granite island that once held a lone pine according to legend. It's now 4 or 5 pines but the verdant green around the lake and the sun spotlighting the island was just about perfect. Technical Details: Nikon Z7 II, Nikkor 24-120mm F4 lens
After making the tough trip up the Devils Staircase with my heavy pack, I stopped to take a break at Lone Pine Lake and photograph the iconic little granite island that once held a lone pine according to legend. It’s now 4 or 5 pines but the verdant green around the lake and the sun spotlighting the island was just about perfect. Technical Details: Nikon Z7 II, Nikkor 24-120mm F4 lens

From the East Meadow up until Lone Pine Lake it was an enjoyable but tiresome hike with a heavy pack on. I stopped to photograph Lone Pine Lake as the sun spotlit the namesake island (which now has like 4 or 5 pines on it). After that short stop, and another mile or so I was heading up the trail to my campsite at Upper East Inlet. Eating lunch and setting up camp just before the rain and lighting really started to pickup again worked in my favor. With pretty heavy thunderstorms moving over the East Inlet, I spent a good 3 hours just waiting out the rain and storms in my small one person tent. Keeping an eye on the forecast, it looked like I’d have a decent chance for some good light around sunset when the storms where supposed to abate for a little while.

Finally around 5:00 PM it seemed like the rain had stopped. I grabbed dinner, threw on my pack and headed up the trail past Lake Verna to get in position for sunset. The goal was the area around Fifth Lake but clouds and thunder starting moving back in so I stopped at Fourth Lake to wait it out.

It remained pretty unsettled through the rest of the evening and I figured I’d stay down in the trees at Fourth Lake and shoot for Fifth Lake another time when exposure would not be an issue. Photographing for a short while at Fourth, I headed back down to Spirit Lake for the final hour or so before sunset. Fourth Lake is beautiful but Spirit Lake is in my opinion a better location to photograph landscapes as its a little more open and accessible along the shoreline than Fourth Lake is. Regardless, the sun managed to break through again in spots and I had pretty good sunset light on Fleur de Lis and some decent yet spotty light on the Cleaver to the east of the lake. After spending a bunch of hours hanging in a small tent, I was a happy camper as I hiked back in the dark to my site.

Just above Lone Pine Lake the trail crosses over this beautiful cascade. Green from all the rain and moisture and lined with wildflowers, scenes like this one make the East Inlet trail a favorite amongst hikers in RMNP. Technical Details: Nikon Z7 II, Nikkor 24-120mm F4 lens
Just above Lone Pine Lake the trail crosses over this beautiful cascade. Green from all the rain and moisture and lined with wildflowers, scenes like this one make the East Inlet trail a favorite amongst hikers in RMNP. Technical Details: Nikon Z7 II, Nikkor 24-120mm F4 lens

The next morning, the 21st of July dawned clear. I rolled out of my tent a little before 4:00 AM, fired up the JetBoil and made a nice hot cup of Anthonys Organic Instant coffee to wake myself up and figure if there was anything worth photographing that morning. After finishing my coffee, I made a quick run up to Lake Verna just to get a better look at the skies and see if there were any promising clouds. The sky was clear as a bell so while that was a bummer, there was lots of low hanging fog on the surface of Lake Verna as well as some fog hanging over the Inlet of Lake Verna near its beautiful but tiny beach. I made a quick run down to the trail to the overlook looking over Lone Pine Lake just west of the Solitaire site to see if Lone Pine was fogged in. Amazingly, it was not, only Lake Verna was.

Hustling back to Verna just as the sun was cresting the continental divide, I spent the morning keeping my fingers crossed that the low lying fog hanging over the surface of Lake Verna would remain long enough for me to make some images. Its common in Rocky Mountain National Park that both clouds and fog will dissipate just as the sun is starting to rise, so I’ve learned to temper my excitement as I’ve watched epic conditions turn into fair and boring conditions quickly and often.

The ground fog held and I was able to get some interesting and unique images of a backlit Lake Verna fogged in. Overall, another great morning and I headed back to camp to relax and reset.

After a stormy afternoon and night, my first morning in the Upper East Inlet broke clear. Low fog however clung to the shore and surface of Lake Verna allowing for this image looking west across the backlit lake. Technical Details: Nikon Z7II, Nikkor 100-400mm F4-5.6 S lens
After a stormy afternoon and night, my first morning in the Upper East Inlet broke clear. Low fog however clung to the shore and surface of Lake Verna allowing for this image looking west across the backlit lake. Technical Details: Nikon Z7II, Nikkor 100-400mm F4-5.6 S lens

That afternoon the weather was much more settled than the previous day. There were still thunderstorms that started to form in the afternoon and it would sprinkle here and there but overall it was obvious there was not nearly the staying power in the clouds and storms as there was the previous day. Thunderstorms staged to the west of Grand Lake, but over the divide and the Cleaver it was basically clear. I could see thunderheads east of the divide but they were not high enough to be beneficial in anyway for photography that afternoon. All I could do would be to pick a spot and see what happened. Again, I chose Spirit Lake because thats where the clouds were. If they moved east I would have a shot and if they stayed south and west I would have s shot. Needless to say I did ok though the lighting was not nearly as dramatic as the afternoon before.

The wildflowers below Fifth Lake were spectacular. I spent my final morning exploring this area. The Columbines were as good and as dense as any other place I've photographed in RMNP. Technical Details: Nikon Z7 II, Nikkor 24-120mm F4 S lens
The wildflowers below Fifth Lake were spectacular. I spent my final morning exploring this area. The Columbines were as good and as dense as any other place I’ve photographed in RMNP. Technical Details: Nikon Z7 II, Nikkor 24-120mm F4 S lens

My final morning in the backcountry of RMNP again dawned clear. Regardless, I had wanted to go explore Fifth Lake and especially the area around it as its one of the best places in all of Rocky for wildflowers. I headed up the trail before 5:00 AM and made my way past Lake Verna, Spirit, Lake Verna and Fourth Lake in short order quickly ending up in the spectacular meadow just below Fifth Lake. With the mountains still casting a large shadow over the meadow, I used the diffused light to photograph the amazing blooms of Blue Columbines, Red and Pink Paintbrush all before the wind started to pick up and blow the flowers around.

I was able to photograph for about a 1/2 hour before the wind became to blustery and the conditions deteriorated. It was time to make my way back to camp, pack up and head back down to Grand Lake.

Overall another great trip in the backcountry of Rocky Mountain National Park and as is always the case from a landscape photographers perspective, being out in the backcountry leads to about a productive a time as one can spend in the field. I’ve still got a few more days left in the backcountry of Rocky Mountain National Park and I’m looking forward to spending as much time as I can enjoying it, stay tuned!.

Summer Soujourn To Timber Lake

I spent a clear but calm and beautiful morning hiking up to Timber Lake on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park last week. Summer in RMNP is in all its glory right now. The glory that is summer in the higher elevations of Rocky wont last long so its always good to appreciate and reflect on these journeys to visit these locations that one may not get to see at whim. Technical Details: Nikon Z7 II, Nikkor 14-24mm F2.8 S lens
I spent a clear but calm and beautiful morning hiking up to Timber Lake on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park last week. Summer in RMNP is in all its glory right now. The glory that is summer in the higher elevations of Rocky wont last long so its always good to appreciate and reflect on these journeys to visit these locations that one may not get to see at whim. Technical Details: Nikon Z7 II, Nikkor 14-24mm F2.8 S lens

It’s mid July here in Rocky Mountain National Park. While late September may vie for the best time of year in RMNP, I think mid July gives late September and run for its money. The snow has more or less melted in the higher elevations or at least on most maintained trails, the tundra and grasses are a vibrant green, and wildflowers are blooming all over Rocky.

Days are long, start earlier and end late but its amazing to watch everything come alive again after a deep winter slumber that for some of these locations lasts into early June. We’ve had some really interesting weather here in Rocky. Anecdotally, I would say I noticed a change about mid way through last summer. Lots of moisture, cooler, and overall, much more conducive to landscape photography.

It’s not uncommon in Rocky Mountain National Park to get a week without seeing all but a few clouds in the skies during the summer months. This can be especially true if the monsoonal flow of moisture that runs up from the Southwest and Gulf of California is not active or is cut off by a high pressure system parked right over Colorado.

While trying to stay busy during an otherwise clear morning in RMNP, I hiked up through the fire damaged area to Big Meadows. Last year, as the landscape recovered, the wildflower bloom in and around Big Meadows was amazing. The Arrowleaf did not dissapoint as the burn area continues to recover on the west side of RMNP. Technical Details: Nikon Z7 II, Nikkor 24-120mm F 4 S lens.
While trying to stay busy during an otherwise clear morning in RMNP, I hiked up through the fire damaged area to Big Meadows. Last year, as the landscape recovered, the wildflower bloom in and around Big Meadows was amazing. The Arrowleaf did not dissapoint as the burn area continues to recover on the west side of RMNP. Technical Details: Nikon Z7 II, Nikkor 24-120mm F 4 S lens.

That weather pattern has been occurring here in Rocky for about the past week or so. Not much interesting out there to photograph from an atmospheric standpoint for the past week or so. Looks like starting tomorrow the monsoonal flow is going to kick back in and we should have some really good chances for active and dramatic atmospheric conditions and landscape photography.

This is going to coincide with me spending a few days on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park backpacking, so I’m both really excited and keeping my fingers crossed that I can stay mostly dry but also come home with some great images in sections of the park that can be difficult to photograph without lots of effort.

Even with the clear conditions, I’ve been out in the field, hiking, photographing and exploring. After all, some of my best images and times in RMNP have come when I’ve had the lowest expectations or just decided to try something different because things did not look promising.

As I often do this time of year with Trail Ridge Road open for the season, I spend a lot of time on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park. Not only is it easier to access this time of year with Trail Ridge Road open, but for the most part its a lot less crowded and many of the great locations on this side of the park are just flat out ignored by other photographers. Many of these locations are physically much more difficult to reach and require much earlier or later start times, but they are both amazing an awesome.

While a lot of the west side of RMNP sustained fire damage, there are still many areas that managed to escape both the fire and the beetle kill. On another clear morning in the park, getting creative I came across this stand of pines casting shadows on the vibrant green forest floor along the Onahu Creek Trail. Regardless of the clear skies, its hard to have a more memorable time then hiking on the less travelled trails of Rocky. Technical Details: Nikon Z7 II, Nikkor 24-120mm F4 S lens
While a lot of the west side of RMNP sustained fire damage, there are still many areas that managed to escape both the fire and the beetle kill. On another clear morning in the park, getting creative I came across this stand of pines casting shadows on the vibrant green forest floor along the Onahu Creek Trail. Regardless of the clear skies, its hard to have a more memorable time then hiking on the less travelled trails of Rocky. Technical Details: Nikon Z7 II, Nikkor 24-120mm F4 S lens
While it was sunny last week with nary a cloud in the sky, I spent time exploring and photographing the burn area on the west side of the park. While the bloom in Big Meadows is not quite as good as last year, its still offers lots of promise. I also made a run up to Timber Lake for sunrise just because why not?. Sure it was clear when I arrived after hiking the five plus miles, but the winds were calm, I got to watch both a Moose and her calf graze in the meadow below the wake as well as watch a pair of bald eagles at the lake hunt for fish.

While Rocky is only 400+ square miles, its still huge when most of ones travel is on foot. Some may not realize this, but it can be years between visiting locations no matter how efficient one is or how many days a year I spend in the park photographing the landscape and wildlife.

Photographing locations like Timber Lake are like visiting and old friend. Even after a great morning hike into the lake for sunrise, heading out and leaving one often feels a sense of somberness as you may not see your old friend for years again as other locations in the park are visited and photographed. Life is short, and watching short seasons in the high country like summer and fall make you only appreciate how little time one really has to spend at each of these spectacular locations. None of us know how much time we have on this planet, but its certainly shorter then many expect. You only have so many sunrises and sunsets and sometimes you can be on the shore of Timber Lake to photograph them. Appreciate each day, get out and explore and embrace the excitement, beauty and even the somberness that comes with photographing these unique locations in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Rested and Ready To Go

With a space of recent late spring snowstorms over Rocky Mountain National Park this past week, I headed up to capture some of the beautiful conditions. Sunrise from Many Parks Curve was spectacular on Wednesday as the sun rose over the plains of Colorado and illumated the snow covered trees. Technical Details: Nikon Z7II, Nikkor 24-120mm F4 lens

Sorry for the lack of recent blog posts of late. After and amazing autumn season in Rocky Mountain National Park, winter started early in November and never really seemed to let up much. To be honest, with the cold weather and snow we had early this year, I took the liberty of stepping back this winter and did not make nearly as many trips into the park.

With April arriving and a slew of late season snowstorms running through the park every few days, with signs of spring even so slowly starting to appear. I’ve been re-energized and I’m back to getting out and photographing RMNP early and often again.

Everybody needs a break from their creative pursuits now and then, and while I had not planned on taking a break from photographing Rocky this winter, It just kind of happened. Rather than fighting it, for the first time in my photography career I went with the flow and found some other things to occupy the time until spring thaw started and I felt inspired and motivated to get back out in the park and break out the camera once again.

I dont plan on taking a break anytime again soon, but its been a rewarding and refreshing experience for somebody who obsesses about getting out in the field as much and as often as possible. To any of my fellow photographers struggling with burn out or just and overall malaise, I’ll be the first to tell you its ok to take a break and step away for a little while.

Regardless, I’m fully recharged now and pumped up for my favorite seasons of summer and fall in Rocky Mountain National Park. The park is slowly thawing out, Trail Ridge Road should be open in the next thirty days give or take and other sections of RMNP are already opening for the season such as Upper Beaver Meadow Road and Wild Basin Road.

I’ll make sure to both keep posting on my Twitter and Facebook accounts as well as to keep this blog updated with the latest conditions and images from recent outings. Here’s to thaw and hope to see you out on the trail.

Back to Rocky!

It’s always great to get back home after traveling. Especially when that’s Rocky Mountain National Park. After an unexpected two week road trip out of town, it was great to get back to the Kawuneeche Valley yesterday for sunrise over Baker Mountain. The sheer beauty of this morning along the Colorado River and very green Kawuneeche Valley can not be understated. Technical Details – Nikon Z7 II, Nikkor 24-120mm F4 S lens

It’s always good to be back home after a long trip. While I love traveling, sometimes you need to do so not for fun but for personal or family matters. Two weeks ago I lost one of my closet aunts and had to speed back to New York to be with family and attend services.

With the current price of rental cars and airline fares, I had been planning on a family road trip back east this summer. My Aunts passing just expedited the trip and a few hours we had packed up the car on short notice and were driving across eastern Colorado on a Wednesday, needing to be on the east end of Long Island by Friday afternoon.

Even though the trip back was not exactly as planned, I was able to spend sometime in the Finger Lakes at my wife’s parents home enjoying the gorges and waterfalls for a few days before we headed back out onto the road, back home to Colorado.

I was able to spend a few days in the Finger Lake region of New York enjoying the waterfalls and gorges before heading back to Colorado and RMNP. Watkins Glen is always a favorite and I could spend days working on all the different locations, waterfalls and other interesting photography subjects found here. Even so, its hard to beat being back home in Rocky. Technical Details: Nikon Z7 II, Nikkor 24-120mm F4 S lens
We arrived back on Wednesday, and even though I was tired, and had enough windshield time to last me a month, I couldn’t let the potential for a good sunrise in Rocky pass after missing some good ones the past two weeks.

I’m a creature of habit and I love my routine. Being on the road and away from home gets me out of my routine. Some would argue thats a great thing and while they are probably right, once I get back home, I try to get back on my routine as quickly as possible. Besides my work out regimen, diet and other parts of my daily routine, one of the most important ones is getting up early and getting out into Rocky Mountain National Park to photograph as often as possible.

So with the alarm going off at midnight on Wednesday morning, it was back to my routine of working out, walking the dog and then heading up to RMNP long before the sun would rise. With the wind blowing pretty good on the east side of Rocky, I was going to have to drive a little farther over to the west side of the park and the Kawuneeche Valley to see if I could take advantage of what looked to be a great sunrise shaping up.

With the overwhelming smell of the pines on the west side and the Kawuneeche Valley as green as I’ve seen it in a longtime, I setup just above the Colorado River and waited for sunrise. Even knowing if sunrise was a bust, being back in Rocky while a large bull moose grazed along the river and the sky exploded with color over Baker Mountain and the headwaters of the Colorado River made the effort all the more worth the while. All I could think is ‘its good to be home!’.

Compress That!

Light beams shine down around the Needles in the Lumpy Ridge section of Rocky Mountain National Park. I was able to photograph this scene from along Tombstone Ridge far across the valley using my 100-400mm lens to compress the scene. Wide angles are great, but often in Rocky, a long lens can save your bacon!. Technical Details: Nikon Z7II, 100-400mm F 4.5-5.6 lens.
Every landscape photographer gets a special tingle when they start talking about using their widest angle lens. Shooting at 11mm or 14mm with a field of flowers in the foreground and a stream winding through the scene with beautiful mountains, clouds and light filling up the background is enough to make any us want to print up a 40×60 inch print to hang on the wall.

While very wide lenses are awesome, here is a little secret. Many of my best landscape images are taking with my mid range zoom of 24-70mm and if not with that lens, something longer like my 70-200 or now recently added 100-400mm lens.

Being able to compress the landscape and focus in on the nooks, crannies and other nuances of light have saved my bacon more than once on an outing into the field. This morning up in Rocky was no exception and I was more than thrilled to rack out my 100-400mm lens to capture some interesting light that would have otherwise been to far away.

To make a long story (and blog post) short, my morning up in Rocky Mountain National Park started with an inversion or low lying cloud layer of the park. As is usually the case, when an inversion is present, I try to get above it. This morning is was up Trail Ridge Road and then a few miles out on the alpine tundra and Ute Trail to get an interesting vista.

Another example of using a long telephoto lens this morning to compress this scene of McGregor Mountain and the Needles of Lumpy Ridge as the sun rises over Rocky Mountain National Park. Technical Details” Nikon Z7 II, Nikkor 100-400mm F 4.5-5.6
The only problem was, these inversions layers can be quite fickle. The rise and fall like a wave but also ebb and flow just like a tide. This morning, the beautiful layer of clouds that filled Moraine Park, Horseshoe Park and Forest Canyon below me had moved on out to the east by the time I arrived at my vantage point.

Sunrise was beautiful but there were almost no clouds left and for the most part, much of the landscape while spectacular and beautiful, was not all that interesting from a photography perspective.

There was one exception however. The Needles across the valley in the Lumpy Ridge section of Rocky had some awesome light beams coming down as the sun rose over RMNP. Even better, some fog and clouds hung over the lower peaks.

Off went my 24-120mm lens and on went the 100-400mm lens. At 400mm, I was able to compress the landscape to accentuate the light beams, capture the fog and clouds around the Needles and come away with dramatic light. If I only had my 70-200mm on me I would not have been able to compress the scene enough to keep it interesting. Even so, one more time my long lens landscapes with my 100-400mm saved my bacon!.