Photographing Tree’s, Tips And Advice

Fresh snow is falling on the red hued trunks of Ponderosa Pine tree's on top of Lumpy Ridge in Rocky Mountain National Park. It took me a few miles of hiking until I finally found a compositions that was clean and lacked distractions. Tree photography is rewarding but it can be difficult to convey the beauty if a few simple rules are not followed. Technical Detail: Canon EOS 1Ds III, 24-105mm F4 IS
Fresh snow is falling on the red hued trunks of Ponderosa Pine tree’s on top of Lumpy Ridge in Rocky Mountain National Park. It took me a few miles of hiking until I finally found a compositions that was clean and lacked distractions. Tree photography is rewarding but it can be difficult to convey the beauty if a few simple rules are not followed. Technical Detail: Canon EOS 1Ds III, 24-105mm F4 IS
Since it’s still the offseason in Rocky Mountain National Park, and the lakes and trails are still frozen over, one needs to get a bit creative to find subjects to photograph. One of my favorite subjects to photograph anytime of year are trees.

The potential and beauty found in the different shapes, contortions, and forms of tree’s are endless. Tree’s are a great subject all times of year. Here are a few of my tricks and tips for photographing trees successfully.

1. Eliminate Distractions: Naturally tree’s tend to grow amongst other trees and foliage. I find its very important when photographing images of trees to be very aware of what’s happening in the viewfinder. Rogue branches, leaves and deadfall can all become distractions that draw the eye away from the subject. Make sure to check the edges of your viewfinder or LCD screen carefully when composing to avoid distracting objects.

2. Make Order Out Of Chaos: This is one of the most important items when photographing trees. Naturally scenes with tree’s in them tend to be chaotic. I find it’s best to try to avoid converging lines. When setting up your tripod and framing your composition, try to keep spacing between tree trunks and allow room on the edges of the frame. Not every group of trees are going to make for an interesting composition. In fact I find nine out of ten times I scout out a group of trees, I end up moving on because there’s just no way to photograph the scene and eliminate distractions.

3. Rule Of Odds: This is a personal preference of mine. It’s certainly a rule that can and should be broken but one that I find most pleasing when photographing trees. Often I find that the best images of trees come when the tree’s are found in odd numbered groups. One, Three or Five trees placed cleanly in an image seems more pleasing to the eye the even numbered groups. Of course this is only a general and I have some very successful images of tree’s in even numbers as well.

A lone Krummholz tree sits above Glacier Gorge prior to sunrise. Singularity helps to make this pre-dawn image of a tree more meaningful than if it was amongst a group of trees. Technicial Details: Canon Eos 1Ds III, 24mm TS-E F3.5 L II
A lone Krummholz tree sits above Glacier Gorge prior to sunrise. Singularity helps to make this pre-dawn image of a tree more meaningful than if it was amongst a group of trees. Technicial Details: Canon Eos 1Ds III, 24mm TS-E F3.5 L II

4. Singularity: This is much more difficult to accomplish than many would think. Finding a single tree with a clean background can be quite difficult. It’s rare in nature to find a single tree that has not been encroached upon by bushes, branches, rocks and deadfall. Even if you do find a single tree it can be even more difficult to find a clean, non distraction background to use as a backdrop. Single tree’s make for powerful imagery as the exemplify independence, perseverance and tenacity.

Again these are just general rules, and rules in general are meant to be broken. This is the checklist I work off of when out in the field photographing tree’s. It helps me to quickly break down a scene and decide if I should just enjoy the view and move on, or if its time to drop the pack and setup the tripod and start shooting.

Winter Doldrums? Tips For Winter Photography In Rocky Mountain National Park

14,259 ft Longs Peak summit is raked by winds and blowing snow and a typcial winter morning in Rocky Mountain National Park. It's easy to want to stay inside during the winter months, but there are endless possibilities for rewarding photography experiences in Rocky for those willing to brave the elemens. Technicial Details: Canon EOS 1Ds III, 70-300mm F4-5.6 IS L
14,259 ft Longs Peak summit is raked by winds and blowing snow and a typcial winter morning in Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s easy to want to stay inside during the winter months, but there are endless possibilities for rewarding photography experiences in Rocky for those willing to brave the elemens. Technicial Details: Canon EOS 1Ds III, 70-300mm F4-5.6 IS L
It’s the middle of winter and sometimes it can be difficult motivating oneself to head out into the elements to create images. It’s easy to want to hit the snooze button on your alarm and stay in the comfort of a warm bed. Winter photography can be challenging but rewarding. Here are three suggestions for getting out and the elements and successfully photographing Rocky Mountain National Park in winter.

The Tahosa Valley and the Twin Sisters: Located along Highway 7, the Tahosa Valley and the Twin Sisters formation offer some of the most impressive views of Longs Peak and Mount Meeker, the two tallest peak in Rocky Mountain National Park. Hike up the Twin Sisters trailhead for impressive views of Longs Peak and it’s famous eastern face known as the Diamond.

Trail Ridge Road and The Mummy Range: The Mummy Range has a southeast facing orientation. This southeasterly orientation is ideal for capturing the winter sun which rises in the southeast this time of year. A short hike up a closed Trail Ridge Road from Many Park’s curve will result in spectacular viewpoints of Mount Chapin, Mount Chiquita and Yipsilon Mountain. It’s common to find clouds floating over the peaks of the Mummy Range which will only help to aid in capturing even more stunning light at sunrise.

Bear Lake Area: Nearly everybody favorite spot in Rocky Mountain National Park for winter activities of all sorts. There are endless possibilities for winter photography in this area. Slap on some snowshoes or cross country skies and impressive viewpoints of the backside of Longs Peak, or towering blocky summit of Hallet Peak lend themselves to your camera and lens. Dream Lake is a popular location even in the middle of winter. Images of Hallet Peak from Dream Lake are just as impressive in winter as is summer, but Dream Lake also attracts photographers looking to photograph abstract images of its icy surface. Because Hallet and Flattop mountain have a northeast orientation, late winter will provide fuller and more complete lighting of this iconic location.

Sunrises Over Boulder

Boulder Sunrise over the High Plains
Each sunrise over Boulder and the Front Range is unique from the previous one. This particular morning the pastels, pinks and magentas really popped before the sun rose over the eastern horizon. I love mornings like these because I know no two sunrises will ever be alike. Technicial Details: Canon EOS 1Ds III, 70-200 F4 IS L
Sunrises on the High Plains of Colorado are often magnificent. No two sunrises over the plains are ever alike. Each sunrise is as unique as fingerprints are to one’s hand. The intensity of the colors, the shape of the clouds, and the richness of light are always changing and varied.

In this day and age of digital photography and the use of software to enhance and refine imagery, some may be skeptical of the intensity of the colors and light that some of my sunrise images exhibit. When photographing a location, it is never my intent to reproduce an exact carbon copy of the scene. There are tweaks and adjustments made to some of my images, but sunrises photographed over the Front Range and High Plains rarely need much work after they are photographed.

When photographing sunrises, I prefer to head out long before dawn on mornings when there is a good amount of cloud cover overhead. Before the sun appears, the light show begins. Clouds will begin to pickup the colors of the sun and the hues an intensity of the light will change rapidly as sunrise approaches. Like a kid in a candy store, I use this time to vary my compositions and experiment with my exposures. My advice, get out early, capture the intensity of the sunrise and spend less time in front of the computer after your shoot.

The Big Chill – Photographing Ice In Rocky Mountain National Park

Ice Patterns on the Big Thomspon River, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Here’s and example of ice fractures on the Big Thompson River. I photographed this image in Moraine Park on a cloudless morning. After walking around the surface of the Big Thompson for some time, I settled on this fracture and snow. If you look closely enought you can see ash embedded in the ice from the Fern Lake Fire. Technicial Details: Canon EOS 1Ds III, 100mm F2.8 L IS Macro
Disclaimer: Photographing ice can be a dangerous and deadly activity. Conditions in Rocky Mountain National Park can change rapidly causing ice to quickly become unstable. Before wandering out on the ice to explore, I strongly advise that you check with NPS Rangers for the latest conditions before heading out on the ice.

It’s that time of year again. That time of year when you start to see shots of ice fractures and patterns from Rocky Mountain National Park popping up all over the internet. It’s a subject that has been photographed quite a bit, but even still some may wonder where and how to capture images of ice in Rocky Mountain National Park.

While there are many locations in Colorado where one can photograph ice patterns on our lakes and streams, Rocky has some of the best locals in all of Colorado to photograph icy surfaces. Combine plentiful locations to photograph ice, with your typical winter doldrums and photographing ice can be the perfect cure to get you back out in the field with your camera.

Rocky is chock full of watery locations that will freeze over once the colder weather settles in. There are however, a few locations that are more accessible and more popular locations to photograph ice in the Park.

Dream Lake tops the list of my popular locations to photograph ice in Rocky. The high winds that race down from the peaks above Dream Lake act like nature’s Zamboni. Even when there is heavy snowpack, winds will often sweep the surfaces of Dream Lake exposing large swaths of the icy surface of the lake. Dream Lake is also a fairly short hike in the winter. The trail is heavily used and will most likely be hard packed. It rarely requires snowshoes to access but I would recommend snow spikes or Yak-Trax type equipment to make your footing a little more sure on the ice and snow.

The Loch, like Dream Lake is also a very good location to photograph ice. The winds at the Loch in the winter can be relentless. This of course will keep large areas of the good size lake free of snow and ready for exploration. The Loch requires a bit more of a physical commitment to reach than Dream Lake but you are likely to encounter fewer photographers here than Dream Lake.

Ice Fractures on Dream Lake, RMNP
Dream Lake is by far the most popular location in RMNP to photograph ice. You could spend days photographing the different patterns on the surface of Dream Lake. Technicial Details: Canon EOS 1Ds III, 24-105mm F4 IS

For those who want to avoid long hikes or extended periods out in the cold and wind, Fall River in Horseshoe Park, and the Big Thompson River in Moraine Park can provide some nice areas of ice, especially if the snowpack is lower. Keep in mind you will be able to find interesting ice patterns in just about any location in Rocky Mountain National Park where there is water present.

As for actually photographing the ice and the patterns, I recommend taking your time to observe the patterns, bubbles and fractures present on the ice. Try lots of different compositions and look for patterns or anomalies in the ice that will make for an interesting subject. My favorite lenses when photographing ice are my 100mm Macro lens and my 24-105mm lens. I find the 85-105mm range to be best at isolating the patterns.

Furthermore, keep in mind that weather conditions will play a big part in your results in the field. Cloudless Colorado bluebird days will result in the ice taking on a bluish hue from the sky reflecting in the ice. Cloudy days will result in the ice taking on a more milky white like hue. I recommend you photograph the ice in Raw. Why you ask?, mostly because this gives you the option of adjusting your white balance when processing your shots. This will result in much more dynamic images as you can decide to warm and or cool the white balance based on your desired results.