Summers Entering The Back Nine

It’s hard to believe but Summer is entering the tail end here in Rocky Mountain National Park. Though fall season is only a few short weeks away, I’m taking advantage of all the great access available in the higher elevations of Rocky such as these beatiful tarns which I photographed at sunrise on Tuesday morning. Technical Details: Nikon Z7, Nikkor 14-30mm F4 S lens

It’s been a beautiful week here on the east side of Rocky Mountain National Park. There is a definite change in the air as late summer unfolds over the park. Subtle signs of the completion of summer and the entrance of autumn can be found if you know where to look.

The summer crowds and families have thinned out a bit during the mid week (weekends are still very busy). Elk can be heard starting to bugle in the meadows of the Kawuneeche Valley and up on the tundra though I would not say the elk rut has officially started as of yet.

Frost can be found on the grasses in the valley and low lying areas and the ground cover is changing color. This is also true of the alpine tundra above 11,000 ft where the short lived green grass is now quickly turning golden and auburn welcoming in fall at this highest elevations of RMNP.

The question most people have, and of course the one most photographers want to know is if there are any signs of fall color amongst the aspen trees of Rocky Mountain National Park as of yet.

There are in fact subtle signs of aspen trees starting to change color in some locations of Rocky. Some aspens above Hanging Valley near Trail Ridge Road are showing some golden leaves now as are some aspens roadside near Hidden Valley. No need to panic as this is typical for any given year and its not uncommon to find a few trees here and there changing color even as early as Labor Day weekend.

While I enjoy seeing the signs of autumn filter in RMNP, I’m still quite focused on working on adding to my portfolio of summer images of the park. The season in the high country is so short, that summer flies by in a blink of an eye each year and before you know it these beautiful and sacred places are covered over in snow and difficult if not impossible to access until next May or June depending on the winter.

We still have at least a month or so of good weather to look forward to. Sure, we could have a snowstorm or two mixed in but access to Rocky Mountain National Park’s higher elevations should be good for another 4-6 weeks.

With that in mind I headed out on the alpine tundra on Tuesday morning to photograph what was one of our best sunrises of the summer. Alpine tarns reflecting the beautiful colors of the sunrise combined with majestic mountains and thick summer grasses are some of my favorite subjects. These are also some of my favorite locations to spent time in during the summer months in Rocky.

Watching a late season summer sunrise unfold over the high landscapes of Rocky Mountain National Park and understanding how fleeting these moments are is both intoxicating and bittersweet. You never forget mornings like this one, while at the same time you understand well that summer is coming to a close and this precious moments in the park are fleeting as always.

One last note. I still have a few morning openings left for my Rocky Mountain National Park Photography tours this fall. As of this writing I still have the morning of 9/16,9/18,9/24, 10/2,10/3 and 10/4 open. If you are interested in any of those dates or dates before or after for a photography tour of Rocky Mountain National Park please contact me via email or phone.

Sometimes It’s Good Enough

Its not first light but the lighting this particular morning along Fern Creek at Odessa Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park still looked pretty good. I had a photography tour client out with me this morning and while he was a little disappointed to put all the effort into getting to Odessa Lake for sunrise, not catching alpenglow and first light due to clouds was quickly forgotten once the sun did break through the cloud cover this morning. Technical Details: Nikon Z7, Nikkor 14-30mm F4 S lens

Whether you are a beginner when it comes to landscape photography, or a seasoned veteran of the craft, we’ve all been there. You have a location you’ve been dying to photography for months or years and the stars finally align and you have now arrived at the said destination.

You’ve played the scenario through in your head multiple times, you have all your camera gear dialed in, you know just what lens you need to use, you’ve been working out and training so you can make the long difficult hike before sunrise and the weather forecast looks promising.

You’ve now done it, you’ve arrived. Only problem is you’ve arrived to find clouds blocking the first rays of sunlight over the landscape. How could this be?. You’ve put in all this time and effort and now that you are standing behind your camera and tripod waiting to trip the shutter the light is not cooperating. Those dreams of alpenglow hitting the mountaintops, while the sky turns pink and red at sunrise will now remain in your imagination only.

For landscape photographers, this scenario plays out all the time. Having a sunrise or sunset busted by by light or no clouds or other weather related factors that take away from our perceived bias on how the scene looks is one of the most frustrating parts of being a landscape photographer.

While I have no actual numbers to base this claim on, I would bet tarnished expectations is one of the leading causes of burnout amongst landscape photographers. There’s no doubt about, putting all that time, effort and money into making an attempt at capturing a dramatic scene can begin to feel like a fools folly when it doesn’t work out.

As a professional photographer and a photography guide in Rocky Mountain National Park I see this scenario unfold often when I have clients out in the field. I’m rooting for my clients to get killer light and conditions more than anyone and when it doesn’t happen I feel for them and empathize with them as I’ve been there as many times in the exact same situation.

For many landscape photographers, the perfect window of light is the 15 minutes before and after sunrise and sunset. No doubt about it that this is the most dramatic window of light during the day. One can build a career off being in the right place at the right time while the light breaks and the landscape is filled with dramatic otherworldly lighting. The truth however, is this happens quite rarely.

When I have photography tour clients out in the field with me in RMNP, I try to manage their expectations and keep them in a positive frame of mind. Sure, we may not get that perfect image of Dream Lake at sunrise, but the light thats appeared a half hour after sunrise once its cleared a cloud bank to the east is pretty darn nice as well.

One of the things I constantly like to reinforce with my students and photography tour clients, is that you can’t only hit homeruns. Sometimes you need to hit singles, doubles and triples to set the tone or in our case our portfolios.

Just last week this very scenario unfolded. I had a client out in Rocky Mountain National Park for a sunrise photo tour. This client was hoping to capture some great images of Odessa Lake and Fern Creek at sunrise. We started early with a 2:40 AM departure from the Boulder area which culminated in the 4.3 mile long hike into Odessa Lake for sunrise.

Conditions looked promising this morning and there were clouds hanging over the divide and Rocky Mountain National Park. All landscape photographers love to have clouds in their composition unless they are blocking the sun. After our moderate hike into Odessa Lake long before sunrise, this is exactly what happened.

6:25 AM came and went and there was no alpenglow on the landscape. No fire red clouds over The Little Matterhorn or Notchtop Mountain. My client while enjoying the experience, the location and the hike in was disappointed that the sun was not shining. I tried to assure him that I thought the sun would make an appearance and while it might not be exactly the light he had envisioned, even the light a little after sunrise can look really good when you are framing Odessa Lake, The Little Matterhorn and Notchtop Mountain through your camera viewfinder.

Finally, after about 35 minutes past sunrise, the sun started to shine down on our location. While there was some disappointment, going through the motions of shooting the scene in front of you can quickly change ones mood. We spend the next 15 minutes photographing various composition at Odessa Lake until we once again lost the sunlight behind the clouds.

The light was moody once it did make an appearance and I could tell that we would be able to capture some really nice images of Odessa Lake and Fern Creek. While it wasn’t exactly the light my client had hoped for, he was very pleased with his images once he was able to get back home and get them downloaded on his computer.

As I try to reinforce with my clients, photography is all about the light. Sometimes the light may not be exactly what you had hoped for, but sometimes the light is just good enough to work.

Sunrise At Mills Lake

I headed up to Mills Lake on Tuesday morning for sunrise. Mills Lake is without a doubt one of the most impressive and beautiful locations in all of Rocky Mountain National Park. That being said, its a difficult location to photograph. Some clouds gliding over Glacier Gorge make for ideal conditions to photograph Mills Lake in the morning. Technical Details: Nikon Z7, Nikkor 24-70mm F4 S lens

On Tuesday morning of this week I took a quick trek up to Mills Lake for sunrise. In my opinion Mills Lake, located in Glacier Gorge is one of Rocky Mountain National Park’s most spectacular and jaw dropping locations. One of the reasons Mills Lake does not get quite as much attention from photographers as do some of RMNP’s other dramatic locations is that Mills Lake can be difficult to photograph.

With Mills Lake resting at the bottom of Glacier Gorge. It’s nestled in and around some of Rocky Mountain National Park’s most impressive and iconic peaks. Longs Peak, Rocky’s tallest peak at 14,259 ft towers above the eastern shore of Mills Lake along with Half Mountain and Pagoda Peak. To the south rests Chiefs Head Peak and the iconic Spearhead. On the west side of Mills Lake, Thatchtop Mountain rises high above with the Arrowhead down valley. With all of these impressive and iconic peaks of RMNP rising above Mills Lake, it makes for one of the most dramatic and visually impressive locations in all of Rocky.

These same peaks however, make Mills Lake difficult to photography because more times than less, they are overshadowing and blocking the sunlight in and around Glacier Gorge. This is especially true early in the morning and late in the afternoon when the sun is low in the sky.

Mornings at Mills Lake means that only the summit of Longs Peak will catch sun. In the middle of summer Chiefs Head Peak will catch first light. It still takes awhile for the sun to reach the Spearhead even during the longest days of the year.

Afternoons are best at Mills Lake but even with that said sunlight can be sparse. The backside of Longs Peak otherwise known as The Keyboard of The Winds will glow at sunset. That’s all well and good but many summer afternoons produce strong thunderstorms and cloud cover over Rocky Mountain National Park meaning you have a good chance of not getting any light at sunset. Wind is also an issue with a large lake like Mills and both the afternoon and mornings have a good chance of having a breeze flowing down Glacier Gorge.

With that said, my strategy at Mills Lake has been to look for heavy cloud cover over Longs Peak and hope there break in the cloud cover to the east. They way I see it when it comes to photographing Mills Lake, is that while I would call it more of an afternoon shot than a morning shot, a good set of clouds over Glacier Gorge can help even the score.

Tuesday morning I headed up the 2.8 miles to Mills Lake with decent cloud cover of the Gorge. That cloud cover thinned out as the sun rose, but enough white puffy clouds hung around after sunrise to make for a beautiful scene. Even better, the northern end of Mills Lake remained calm enough to allow for a great reflection. Not exactly how I had drawn up the morning in my mind, but regardless the results were still more than satisfactory.

One other note in closing here not related to photography at Mills Lake but to my tour and workshop schedule in late summer and fall. My schedule for photography tours this fall is quickly filling up. Many of my clients book these autumn dates nearly a year in advance. That being said if you are looking to take a photography tour or workshop with me at the end of August or through September and the fall color season, I still have some openings. Please contact me sooner than later and I’ll be happy to let you know what open dates I still have for summer and fall photography tours in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Late August, September and the first half of October is some of the best times to photograph Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s a great time to take a photography tour and I’’m happy to try and accommodate anybody who is interested in heading out with me in the next few months.

The Unoffical Start Of Summer Has Arrived – RMNP Update

Memorial Day weekend is here and with it the unoffical start of the summer season has arrived in Rocky Mountain National Park. Lots of fellow photographers will be out in RMNP this weekend looking to shake the rust off from a long winter slumber. Below is an update of what to expect in Rocky this weekend for your visit. Here’s an image of Dark Mountain from Rainbow Curve earlier this week. As the image depicts, much of Rocky Mountain National Park is still taking it’s time transitioning from winter to spring. Technical Details: Nikon Z7, Nikkor 70-200 F4 AF-S VR G lens

The unofficial start of summer has finally arrived and lots of photographers are loading up their vehicles, packing the camera and camping gear, and heading out to shake the rust off after a long winter.

Theres nothing quite like the anticipation and excitement that comes along with that break in run to start summer. A fair share of landscape and wildlife photographers will be heading up here to Rocky Mountain National Park over the Memorial Day weekend to get their photography fix. For those heading up here to Estes Park and RMNP this weekend here is what you can expect.

First off as it currently stands the weather looks decent compared to the winter like weather we have been experiencing for much of May. With the exception of Monday, the weather in Rocky looks more or less seasonal with partly sunny days. As is often the case with Rocky Mountain National Park it appears the wind will be accompanying photographers much of this weekend so plan accordingly. Mornings look like they will be mostly clear and with higher winds, capturing reflection at many of the lakes and open bodies of water may be tricky.

Photographers will find the lower elevations mostly clear of snow by the time they arrive though trails will be muddy and wet in spots. Higher elevations such as the Bear Lake trailheads will still be packed snow and ice. Traction such as Microspikes or Yak-Trax would be highly recommended. As it warms during the day the snow will soften and post holing through soft snow is likely. Meadows in the lower elevations of the park have just started to green up and the aspen trees in locations such as Moraine Park and Horseshoe Park are just leafing out now. Aspen trees and deciduous plants above 9000 ft are for the most part yet to leaf out.

Roads in the park that are closed seasonally are mostly now open. Upper Beaver Meadows, Wild Basin Road, Inn Keepers Road on the west side of Rocky are now all open. Old Fall River road wont open until July as it stands now which is inline with its normal opening time. As of this writing the road to the end of the Twin Sisters trailhead was still closed which will require parking at the two Lily Lake parking lots.

Trail Ridge Road, the highlight of Rocky Mountain National Park for many visitors will not be open this Memorial Day weekend. The National Park Service crews have been working tirelessly since April in an attempt to open Trail Ridge Road but heavy snowpack over the winter combined with powerful late season snowstorms have made it impossible to safely open Trail Ridge Road from Estes Park through to Grand Lake.

Make sure to enjoy RMNP this weekend as well as the unofficial start of summer. Remember that Rocky has been experiencing record visitation and this weekend will be busy. Be respectful of the park, wildlife and other visitors. Remember to stay on trail and use Leave No Trace principles if you are going to deviate from visiting locations off the beaten path.

In a nutshell remember to leave Rocky better than you found it. Pickup any loose trash, think about visiting areas that are less likely to be crowded and try to be mindful of your impact on the land, wildlife and the park. Most importantly have a great time visiting Rocky Mountain National Park while hopefully coming away with a handful of great images you can add to your portfolio when you get back home.

Embrace All Kinds Of Light

Embracing all kinds of light means its important for landscape photographers to navigate through all the different kinds of light that may fall on a landscape. Dramatic lighting on iconic scenes is awesome but learning how to photograph under more subtle lighting condtions can be just as rewarding. Sublte ligithing conditions can allow one to capture a sense of place better or to photograph locations that dont work well under more dramatic lightingn conditions. I’ve been waiting for a gray day to photograph this scene in Rocky Mountain National Park for quite awhile. Snow on the trees and willows combined with overcast lighting allowed me to bring out the blues on the pines and the reds of the willows in a more discrete fashion.Technical Details: Nikon D850, Nikkor 200-500mm F5.6 AF-S VR E lens

The trend in landscape photography has been every more dramatic, epic, and otherworldly lighting conditions. Combine this was some iconic spot and one has the formula for a Facebook post, Tweet or Instagram post to garner lots of likes or maybe even go viral. The euphoria and endorphin rush with capturing a scene under dramatic lighting combined with lots of likes and comments on social media feeds right into one’s ego and can set a photographer on a temporary feel good high.

As with both light and capturing that light with a camera and creating a photograph, these conditions and moments in time are ethereal. Both the photographer and their mostly anonymous social media fan club that liked, shared and retweeted the image, will move on to another image or shiny object.

Make no mistake about it, as a landscape photographer the condition that allows me to convey my message and portray my subjects personality and mood is the lighting. Like most other landscape photographers I strive to photograph my subjects in the most dramatic lighting conditions possible. I study the conditions, topography and subject envisioning the best conditions that will render what I perceive as a reflection of the sense of place of a given location based on what the potential lighting conditions may be. I’ll stare at a landscape and envision what it would look like wrapped in fog or lit with sun and clouds in a manner that flow with jagged peaks or deep canyons.

Even though I strive to photograph locations in dramatic lighting conditions, some of my favorite light on the landscape is still plain old diffused lighting found on cloudy, rainy and snowy days. For me, while this particular lighting is more subtle and quiet, it often allows me to photograph subjects and conditions that would not reflect the sense of place under more dramatic lighting conditions.

Earlier this week I found myself immersed one morning in cloudy overcast lighting conditions on the east side of Rocky Mountain National Park. I headed out in Rocky this particular April morning with the hopes that we would get some breaks in the cloud cover at sunrise. Snow had been falling the night before and being as difficult as it is to capture landscape images in Rocky after snow (on account of high winds and bluebird days preceding storms), I’m always going to take my chances hoping the light breaks my way. While I’ve had more than my shares of sunrises and sunsets where this has not worked, many of my most dramatic images have happened on mornings when chances were slim anything dramatic would happen.

Well as so often happens the dramatic lighting did not come this morning. It looked good at times with breaks in the cloud cover but just as sunrise approached snow moved back in over Rocky Mountain National Park’s east side and the lighting on the landscape remained gray and diffused.

I could have packed it up and left the park. Instead I started scanning the list in my head of locations I wanted to photograph under these conditions. That list is as long or longer than the locations I want to photograph in RMNP under prime lighting conditions and sun. Instead of sulking and heading home I was excited and energized by the prospect of being able to shoot locations and subjects that I’d normal pass on.

With this in mind I headed out into Hollowell Park. Hollowell Park is a beautiful location accessed from Bear Lake Road. Great hiking trails emanate out of this small park but I would think for most landscape photographers shooting Rocky, its not high on the ‘to-do’ list as the view of the mountain peaks are not quite as sexy as they are further up Bear Lake Road.

But there is plenty to photograph in Hollowell Park, especially under gray, diffused light. Fresh snow on the landscape and snow covered pines, willows and aspens could keep me and my camera busy and clicking all morning. Even better was I had the entire area to myself that morning kept company only by a pair of ravens, the occasional mountain bluebird and a pack of coyotes.

It get’s tiring hearing many well known photographers rail against the copycat nature that seems perverse in the craft these days. Comp-stomping has become and epidemic and social media only serves to fuel this behavior. That being said, we’ve all been there at one point or another and I can still get just as excited for a dramatic sunrise at Dream Lake as I could twenty plus years ago when I first started photographing Rocky Mountain National Park.

Nowadays I get just as excited for cloudy, gray days to photograph. In fact, with 300 plus sunny days a year here on the Front Range of Colorado, getting these kinds of conditions can be difficult at times. The bottom line is that its important to embrace all kinds of light.

Enjoy and photograph dramatic lighting, but also learn to embrace and enjoy the more subtle lighting when it arrives. It will make you concentrate of both your subject, your composition and your surroundings more. I think you will also find this kind of lighting will allow you to create images that are both more original, and speak to your creative side as much or more than dramatically light iconic subjects.

Spring’s Arrived

This time of year in Rocky Mountain National Park is one of my favorite. Winter starts to lose her grip on the park and each day as the snow melts and the temperatures rise access to the park improves. While Trail Ridge Road is not ope for the season just yet, it is open to Rainbow Curve. This allowed me to hike up above Forest Canyon to catch this view of Terra Tomah mountain as the sun lights her flanks and fog fills Forest Canyon below. Technical Details: Nikon D850,Tamron 100-400mm F 4.5-6.3 DI VC lens

Spring has arrived in Rocky Mountain National Park and summer wont be far of it’s heels. As I write this we are a little over a week away from Memorial Day which is the traditional unofficial start of the summer season here.

Both winter and spring here have been for the most part mild and more or less seasonal. Snowpack is at about 90% of average so we are a little behind but not much off the mark. We had some good late season snows as well as some good rain in the lower elevations the first few weeks of May so things are starting to green up nicely in the meadows and lower elevations of the park. Pasque Flowers and now Mountain Ball Cactus are blooming and more of the traditional wildflowers will begin appearing in the next few weeks in the lower elevations of Rocky.

Trail Ridge Road has not yet opened for the season but barring any crazy weather should open right before Memorial Day weekend. Trail Ridge Road has been open above Many Parks Curve where it is closed for the winter season all the way to Rainbow Curve for the last two weeks. Having Trail Ridge Road open to Rainbow Curve just above 10,800 ft allows the more adventurous to hike up the plower road and get above timberline with a little more ease and a lot less people than during the summer season when the road is open.

Ponds and lakes are really starting to open up as well. Many of the lakes around 10,000 ft are starting to open up large sections of ice on their surface. Lakes below 10,000 ft are ice off and good for photographing reflections on calm days. Lots of spots of hard packed snow on trails above 9500 ft but lower elevations like Lumpy Ridge Moraine and Horseshoe Park are great for hiking right now with the usual muddy spots.

Overall, Rocky is in great shape and becoming more accessible each day. While there will still be snow and ice around until late June and early July in the highest reaches of the park, access is already great and only getting better. This is one of my favorite times of years and as always I’m looking forward with great anticipation at getting out into the park and exploring new areas as well as visiting old stalwarts.

Motivation

It’s mornings like this one from today in Rocky Mountain National Park that keep me motivated. I may not always have something deep to say about each image but my love of Rocky Mountain National Park and wild places is what keeps me heading out regardless of the times or conditions. Technical Details: Nikon D850, Tamron 100-400mm F 4.5-6.3 DI VC lens

I get asked often what motivates me to get up five, six or seven days a week to head out at an ungodly hour of the morning for most people and head out into nature ready photograph whatever is in store that particular day. It’s a good question without an easy answer.

Head over to social media, podcasts or other photographers blog and this subject comes up often with some photographers while others never discuss it at all. Some photographers feel strongly that if your motivations behind your photography and the reasons you connect with nature and discussed openly than you are discrediting your imagery and craft. While sharing your images with other is important too many that is not enough.

Photographers on the opposite side of the argument may feel the need to share and detail all their personal feelings and motivations each time the create and share and image is necessary. In the modern age of ever shrinking privacy and autonomy, sharing one’s personal feelings, beliefs and motivations each day beyond the image itself may not only make them uncomfortable but may leave them feeling narcissistic and overly self important.

Where do I fall in the discussion? Not to be a cop-out but I would say I fall somewhere in the middle. We as nature and landscape photographers get to witness untold beauty on an almost daily basis. For many the beauty of the light, landscape, journey and discovery is what drives and motivates us to keep returning and communing with the landscape and light. This certainly motivates me but so does the entire process motivate me.

I enjoy waking early long before most. I take great satisfaction in working out after I wake so that I can stay trail ready whether I’m hiking or not. I taking the dog on a walk in the neighborhood at 2:30 AM so I can survey the sky and conditions before I drive to my location. I love my hour long drive from my home in Erie up to Estes Park in the dead of night so I can think quietly, listen to bad music or have long conversations with myself about who knows what. Most importantly I love that I have the freedom to do not only what I love doing, but have locations such as Rocky Mountain National Park that have been preserved, protected and kept open to the public so that I can for the most part, still freely access large swaths of wilderness. Lastly and most importantly I enjoy the entire process. From start to finish each day each step along the way exciting or boring I enjoy. The minute I stop enjoying the entire process is the minute I stop taking photos. I doubt many other photographers would find my routine and process enjoyable like I do.

With that said, some days I’m motivated to write something thoughtful and engaging, and other days I may feel the image stands alone with little need or desire to delve deeper on sharing the personal intricacies that go into my love and motivation behind my craft.

In the world of art there is certainly not a need to conform to what others are doing. In fact conformity is looked down upon and discouraged. No two artists or photographers will travel the same paths nor will they ever arrive at the same destination. We should not only appreciate the difference between individuals, but embrace it.

Being original should be a goal, but it should not be the be the only goal. The goal should be staying true to yourself but remembering to enjoy and love both the experience and process while championing in a responsible manner the subjects you photograph.

As a final thought on motivation, I see many photographers today railing about photographing original compositions and shooting locations or subjects that are rarely photographed. When posting their original composition they often choose to preface it with a quote from an author or historical figure. It’s probably a quote you’ve seen many times before on the internet, in books, calendars and other forms of media. I’ll admit that I’m a sucker for these quotes and often find them interesting and amusing. But in the interest of originality, is it ok to post a never before photographed composition while recycling somebody else’s writing? If we are going to tout the importance of originality shouldn’t the quote used to describe the photograph be held to the same standard as the image and also be original?. Just a thought.

Rocky Happenings And Updates

Winter so far in Rocky Mountain National Park may have been on the mild side, but as always the case RMNP has some of the most spectacular sunrises anywhere. Horseshoe Park maybe on the dry side but looking back towards Deer Mountain during this beautiful January sunrise makes photographing Rocky Mountain National Park worthwhile regardless of snow. Technical Details: Nikon D850, Nikkor 70-200mm F2.8 AF FL ED lens
It’s been a little quiet around here on the blog the past few months. While I’ve been busy posting to my social media feeds on Facebook and Twitter most days I’ve somewhat neglected updating my blog for which I apologize. Having recently moved into a new house it’s taken more effort than I’d care to admit just to be able to get time out in the field in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Good news is that I’m finally settled in and I’m quickly getting myself back on track and back into my routine which some would say borders on obsessive compulsive.

Overall, conditions along the Front Range of Colorado this winter have been fairly bland. In fact we’ve not had much weather to speak of since October and this winter so far has been mild and dry. Rocky Mountain National Park has had some snow, but i’m keeping my fingers crossed that the weather pattern shifts as we head towards spring and we get a good run of storms and moisture to not only make for dramatic conditions for us photographers, but also to increase the snowpack and keep the park from drying out.

Besides the mild winter we have been experiencing so far, a few other notable items have been happening in Rocky. We’ve already had one government shut down this year in which contrary to past years funding shut downs did not close Rocky completely. Many services were limited for the few days the federal government shut down but Rocky was able to operate on a limited basis with the exception of being able to plow snow which lead to the park being closed one day due to dangerous road conditions.

Another hot button issue has been the proposed increased entry fee for 2018. While the final decision has not yet been made, daily entrance fee’s at Rocky Mountain National Park along with over a dozen other popular National Park’s look to be increasing dramatically. Rocky’s proposed daily entrance fee would increase from $20 a day to $70 a day. While the overall trend in visitation to Rocky Mountain National Park continues to increase (with a less than 2% decrease in 2017) these newly proposed increase in daily fee’s are striking most as excessive.

These increase in fee’s are likely to have an impact on my guiding and photography tour services in Rocky Mountain National Park as well. Not only will participants in my tour services have to pay additional fee’s to enter the park, there is another proposed fee to holders of Commercial Use Agreement guide passes or CUA’s of $170 a tour. This proposal is also still being discussed but if you combine the cost of my photography tour services, a $70 entry fee along with another $170 fee for guiding each client or group in the park, the cost of my services my become prohibitive to many of my participants.

Currently, I’m keeping an eye on how these shakes out and at this point are still booking photography tours for 2018. I’ve renewed my CUA pass for 2018 but if these fee’s do come into effect and greatly affect my photography tour services and guiding, I may no longer be able to offer those services in 2019.

Lastly, I plan on doing a better job in 2018 keeping my blog updated. Keeping my social media feeds updated on Twitter and Facebook while effective, take away time from posting on my blog. I only have time to update so many feeds and blog posts and currently my social media feeds have been winning that battle. With Facebook’s new policy changes regarding business accounts being more or less hidden unless one pays to advertise on the site, I’d like to continue to shift my content and energy back to keeping this site updated. I’ll still be updating Twitter and Facebook as often as I have in the past, but I’m going to prioritize keeping my site updated with my content.

So while its been a quiet season in Rocky so far, there have been many a beautiful winter sunrises (Rocky has some of the best). I’ll be out and about in the field as often as I can get out and I’ll keep all of you updated on the new fee proposals and what the final outcome is along with how it will impact my photography tour services in RMNP.

Adios Autumn

We’ve made it through another fast paced but beautiful autumn season here in Rocky Mountain National Park. Fall color and autumn are quickly making their exit from Rocky but the past fall season while beautiful, varied and always too short has given photographers lots of great opportunities. While the overall color this year was average at best, the weather conditions in the park during the fall season made for some spectacular shooting conditions for photographers. Scenes like this one of snow and autumn aspen trees in Horseshoe Park were common as snow graced the park often this fall. Technical Details: Nikon D850, Nikkor 70-200mm F2.8 ED AF VR FL lens

Autumn in Rocky Mountain National Park is one of my favorite times of year. I look forward to the fall season in Rocky all year only to find it both arrives and departs much more quickly than I am ever comfortable with. It’s a spectacular time of year to visit RMNP and its also and amazing time of year to photograph the park. The autumn hues, golden aspens and elk rut make it a very popular place to be once mid September rolls around. Even with autumn being one of my most favorite times of year to get out in the field, the harried pace of the season in Rocky can make the autumn seem like a blur.

No two fall seasons in Rocky are ever alike. The colors are different each year, the location of the best and most vibrant color are different each year, the timing of peak colors in areas of the park are different each year and the total duration of the autumn season is different each year. Some autumn seasons linger on and on with little to no early season snow or windstorms to expedite the end of autumn.

Some years it’s just the opposite. For one reason or another the fall color may never really pop. Snow and high winds may also rake across the park quickly stripping the trees of their leaves as well as making access to locations more difficult. As is always the case when dealing with mother nature, you just don’t know and there’s not much you can do even if you do know.

This makes it important to take advantage of the conditions whenever they are favorable. If there is one thing I’ve learned in photographing fall in Colorado and Rocky Mountain National Park it’s get the shot while you can. Waiting for better conditions or planning on coming back at a later date is often a fools folly. I’ve personally missed a few opportunities thinking I’ll come back to a location a little later only to have wind, snow or weather decide otherwise.

Autumn season is Rocky has pretty much wrapped up for the year. We’ve had a very dynamic fall season in RMNP and one that offered many great opportunities for photographers even if I would rate the color this season as average to below average. Weather was the story this season along with snow dropped on the park almost once a week since the colors began changing. While the snow and cool autumn hampered some of the fall color, it did allow for some really neat opportunities to photograph the clash of the seasons.

Overall the season was both short and awesome. The frenetic pace of autumn and the need to maximize your time in the field with your subjects while the getting was good takes precedent over sleep, rest and contemplation. Now with the season waining the pace can slow and we can begin looking forward to winter in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Bring On Fall

Fall color season is Rocky Mountain National Park is well underway. We are just about to enter primtime as it pretains to photographing the glorious autumn colors that grace RMNP each September and October. I photographed this color grove of aspens trees on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park late last week. Now’s as good a time as any to get out an photograph the fall colors of Rocky. Technical Details: Nikon D810, Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM C

How quickly time seems to fly. Seems like only a few weeks ago I was lamenting a late spring blizzard in Rocky that dumped 3 feet of snow on the park while awaiting summer. While that late season May blizzard dropped a load of snow on Rocky it was only a temporary obstacle to the oncoming summer season in the park and all the glorious beauty that comes along with the thaw out of the high country. Now here I am lamenting the fact that summer is already on its way out and the autumn season and fall colors that grace Rocky Mountain National Park each season are quickly nearing their peak.

Of course lamenting is not really the right word as the transition from summer to fall in Rocky leads us into my favorite time of the year in the park as well as one of the most fruitful times for any photographer visiting Rocky. The only issue most photographers have with the fall season is that like the summer seasons its too short so one needs to take advantage of every opportunity as you may or may not got a second chance with the fleeting and frenetic nature of autumn in RMNP.

As of this writing, many area of Rocky are just starting to dawn their fall colors. There are some areas of Rocky Mountain National Park that are currently at peak but for the most part the color show will really start unfolding starting this week.

A few area of aspens on the west side of Rocky are at peak. Those include the groves near the west entrance of the park at Grand Lake, and the hillsides below the Never Summer Mountains. The tundra grasses have taken on their red hue and many of the small ground plants and brush near timberline are now peaking.

On the east side of Rocky the autumn colors are just starting to look good at the higher elevations. The areas around Bear Lake which tend to peak right around the 20th of September (give or take a few days on either side) now are showing color. The Bierstadt Moraine is showing hints of color though we have at least 10 days to go before peak. The area around Boulder Brook is starting to get some nice color but should remain fruitful for the next two weeks.

As a reminder the fall color in Rocky Mountain National Park tends to peak in the higher elevations first and then will move its ways down to the lower elevations which include the meadows and parks. One can easily photograph fall color in Rocky from about September 15th all the way through mid to late October depending on temperatures, snowstorms, and cold temperatures so its important to keep an eye on the weather and remain flexible.

So get outside and enjoy the autumn season in Rocky Mountain National Park because like summer, it wont last long and its only a matter of time before the snow starts flying and accessing some locations in RMNP become a lot more difficult.