Becoming a successful nature photographer requires many things including technical skill, passion, vision, persistence and sometimes just good old fashion luck. While luck certainly comes into play with photography, you have to make sure you put yourself in a position to benefit when luck may strike. Sometimes when it comes to photographing a certain image or location, a photographer can feel like Captain Ahab hunting for his illusive white whale. I may visit locations hundreds of time in all different types of lighting conditions and never capture an image I am completely satisfied with or feel resonates my vision of the said location.
Dream Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park has always been one of those white whale locations for me. I have visited this iconic Colorado locale many times over the last 13 years. I have a handful of portfolio worthy images from Dream Lake, but I’ve always envisioned being at Dream Lake with epic lighting conditions. Colorado weather has been pretty vanilla this summer and the opportunities for dramatic sunrises have been few and far between of late. Last week we finally had a good day of rain and cool weather. I headed up to Rocky Mountain National Park hoping the clouds and low hanging fog would stick around for sunrise.
I was debating in my head where I would go for sunrise as I drove through the fog I was encountering driving through Estes Park. It was going to be one of the lakes reached from the Bear Lake trailhead for sure. I first decided on Emerald Lake. I had photographed Dream Lake many times before and frankly there are so many great images of this location I wanted to try and attempt something a little different. As I was hiking towards Emerald Lake, things were looking good. There was no wind, clouds swirled overhead and fog sifted in and out of the crags of Flattop and Hallet Peak and there was a small gap on the eastern horizon where the sunrise should peak through for a few minutes.
I was hiking passed Dream Lake and saw that the shoreline was void of any other people. The pre-dawn scene was to difficult to resist. I setup along the eastern shore of Dream Lake and watched this light show unfold before me. It was quick and only lasted a few minutes before the sun ducked back into the cloud cover. I was able to capture a dozen or so images before the light was gone. To my surprise, I only shared this once in a lifetime light show with one other photographer visiting Rocky Mountain National Park from Atlanta. There was a bit of luck involved here as Hallet Peak never received full sunlight. If I had gone to Emerald Lake as I had planned, I would have been above the light show and missed this seen. I could not help but feel I had gotten my white whale as I hiked back down to the parking lot this morning.