Look To The East

A beautiful sunrise over Horseshoe Park in Rocky Mountain National Park
It’s easy to fall into the trap of photographing the icons of Rocky Mountain National Park. Most of the iconic images of Rocky Mountain National Park are best photographed looking westward. Dont overlook images of Rocky by facing eastward. Some of the best sunrises and cloud formations in Rocky setup to the east. Technical Details: Canon EOS 1DsIII, 24-105mm F4 IS
The east side of Rocky Mountain National Park is primed for photography at sunrise. It’s east facing peaks high above the Colorado plains are privy to the intense alpenglow of dawns early light. With the peaks of Rocky Mountain National Park perched high above the eastern plains of Colorado, there are no physical barrier blocking the horizon or sunrise. The end result of this is beautiful and intense lighting or alpenglow occurs on the peaks at sunrise.

I first photographed Rocky Mountain National Park in 1998, the year I moved to Colorado from the east coast. I was awe struck when I photographed my first sunrise from Dream Lake.

I had seen images of Dream Lake in calendars and books but the experience of hiking to the lake before sunrise and watching the sunrise unfold and bathe Hallet and Flattop mountain in rich red and orange light had me hooked. With my trusty Nikon F4s in tow, a few rolls of Fuji Velvia and Kodachrome 25 in my bag I clicked away in awe. Ever since that sunrise at Dream Lake, I’ve spent my time hiking around Rocky Mountain National Park during ungodly hours to photograph her beautiful alpine lakes at sunrise.

It’s become a near obsession for me to photograph different lakes at sunrise in Rocky. A funny thing happened along the way however. Forgive the cheesy pun, but somewhere along the way it dawned on me that some of the best photographs at sunrise were actually looking east away from the peaks and not directly at them.

Perhaps it was my migration over to digital photography which allowed the camera to capture a greater range of detail in the shadows. Possibly it’s due to the fact that some of the best cloud formations in Rocky actually setup east of the high peaks. It’s likely that it’s a desire to capture images a little bit different than those taken from the usual locations.

Regardless, photographing Rocky with an eastern facing vantage point has resulted in the creation of some of my favorite images of the park. So the next time you head out to photograph Rocky, keep your options open and don’t overlook photographing with your back to the high peaks.