Of Tripods, Twigs And The Loch

Rocky Mountain National Park's Cathedral Wall and Taylor Peak catch the first rays of Sun as they reflect in a mostly frozen Loch.
The Cathederal Wall glows orange as the Sun's first rays light up Loch Vale and reflect in the surface of The Loch in Rocky Mountain National Park. It took some 'environmental engineering' to get this image to work as the image below demonstrates. Technicial Details: Canon EOS 1Ds III, 24mm f3.5 TS-E L II, and of course a submerged twig from the lake.
One of the aspects I love about landscape photography is you really never know what’s going to transpire on any given day out and about. You can prepare, plan, plot, and peruse locations and idea’s but when the golden hours arrive and the Sun rises and falls the outcome is rarely as anticipated.

Take this weekends leap of faith venture up to The Loch in Rocky Mountain National Park. Colorado’s abnormally warm, dry Spring weather pattern has remained the norm. I was hoping there would be some open water to photograph when I arrived at my destination but I had no way of knowing until I had put 3 snow packed miles behind me. I had not hiked up to The Loch since August, so I could only take a guess with the amount of open water at Dream Lake, there might be some at The Loch.

Hiking up the crusty snow packed trail from the Glacier Gorge parking kept me on my toes. Typically in the Winter and early Spring months you hike up a frozen Glacier Creek to get up to the Loch Vale area. This spring morning was no different and hiking up a still mostly frozen Glacier Creek was still possible. Other than the annoyance of an occasional slip on the ice, or a leg post holing in soft snow it was an enjoyable hike up to The Loch.

Trolling around the near shore of The Loch revealed lots of snowpack and no signs of open water. There were some high cirrus clouds and little wind, so overall conditions were great. I was finally able to find a small area of open water. Quickly setting up my camera and tripod revealed that I was going to have a hard time photographing the Cathedral Wall reflecting in the Loch.

Rigged camera setup to get the photograph of the Loch
My camera setup resting plum and leveled along the shoreline of The Loch thanks to one soggy twig. I would have liked to have used my tripod, but my center column prevented me setting up this low to the ground.

My camera had to be a few inches from the surface of The Loch in order to capture a full reflection of Mt. Taylor and the Cathedral Wall without the icy mass on the surface of the lake hindering the view. Because of the three mile hike up to the lake, I brought my lightweight tripod with a center column, not my heavier tripod without a center column. For the layperson, the center column hinders one from extending their tripod legs outward in such a fashion that you can set it up level with the ground.

My only hope for getting the reflection in the shot was to ditch the tripod and setup my camera on the exposed granite along the shoreline. One of the rocks was flat enough to allow me to rest my camera setup on top of it in a somewhat stable fashion. The problem was I needed to level my camera so that the scene before me was level.

I was surrounded by only snow. I could find no small rocks or other items to help prop and level my camera. Luckily, there was a small stick submerged in the lake along the shoreline. Reaching into the icy cold lake, I retrieved the stick and used it to prop and level the left side of my camera. Combining that with the use of rise on 24mm TS-E lens I was able to stabilize and level the camera so that I could photograph the reflection. I’m not the first to rig up my camera to get the shot, but I was not leaving The Loch without capturing this beautiful spring scene. Anybody else out there have any good tales on unique circumstances when out photographing?.

2 thoughts on “Of Tripods, Twigs And The Loch

  1. Nice! I was at the Loch a few weeks ago and it was still completely frozen over. Need to find the time to write about my images. This is nice.

    1. Jao,

      Thanks again. On one hand it’s been nice being able to shoot the open water at places like The Loch and Dream Lake. On the other hand it’s been kind of surreal being able to do so this early in the season. I’m hoping we get some moisture soon or its going to end up being very dry this Summer.

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