Wandering Trail Ridge Road

Sunrises from the top of Trail Ridge Road exemplify the Rocky Mountain National Park experience. Here the skies over Forest Canyon explode with color as wildflowers grow between the rocks and boulders found above treeline. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 16-35mm F4 IS L
Sunrises from the top of Trail Ridge Road exemplify the Rocky Mountain National Park experience. Here the skies over Forest Canyon explode with color as wildflowers grow between the rocks and boulders found above treelike. It’s a short season on Trail Ridge Road so it makes mornings like these even more special. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 16-35mm F4 IS L
Nothing quite says summer in Rocky Mountain National Park like a drive across Trail Ridge Road. Once the road opens up for the season, It’s on the to do list of most visitors to Rocky and the road itself is considered to be one of the icons of the park. Trail Ridge Road which is the highest continuous paved road in the continental United States is the highlight for many visitors to the park.

The winding, curving roadway not only gives visitors and photographers spectacular views of the mountains but also lets one experience the harsh but beautiful world that survives above tree line. Topping out at 12,183 ft above sea level, a good eleven miles of the road runs above or near tree line which in Rocky Mountain National Park occurs around 11,500 ft. Trail Ridge Road with its steep drop offs lack of guardrails and shoulders can turn even the best drivers into white knuckle drivers who end up gripping the steering wheel like their trying to squeeze juice from an orange.

So while I generally prefer to be out on a trail when heading out to photograph the park, the short window that Trail Ridge Road is open each season makes spending time traveling the road each summer a priority. July in particular is a great time to explore Trail Ridge Road. The alpine tundra will have turned green, much of the snow will have melted and wildflowers will sprouting and growing on the tundra and between the rocks.

Just enough drop under light illuminates Specimen Mountain and the sky above. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 16-35mm F4 IS L
Just enough drop under light illuminates Specimen Mountain and the sky above. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 16-35mm F4 IS L

I spent a few days last week on Trail Ridge Road and was lucky enough to catch two stunning sunrises. Rocky Mountain National Park has been pestered by smoke from fires in the far north of Canada the last week. With the weather pattern changing and the winds shifting to a more southerly and westerly direction, the smoke from the Canadian fires quickly was moved out of the park. Wildflowers are blooming all over the tundra and the alpine sunflowers are growing the thickest I’ve seen them in the last 10 years or so.

The conditions right now on Trail Ridge are great. Plenty of green, plenty of wildflowers, still some good snow cover on the highest peaks. Many of the Elk have migrated above tree line from the valley’s below so there is plenty of large wildlife to observe. So enjoy Trail Ridge while it’s open, accessible as beautiful as it will be all season.

New York Roundabout

I'm back in Colorado after a fun week of photography back in New York. Beaches, Gorges and bubbling streams made for a worthwhile trip. Here sunrise unfolds over Shinnecock Bay in Southampton, New York. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 24-70mm F4 IS L
I’m back in Colorado after a fun week of photography back in New York. Beaches, Gorges and bubbling streams made for a worthwhile trip. Here sunrise unfolds over Shinnecock Bay in Southampton, New York. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 24-70mm F4 IS L
I’ve just arrived back from another annual summer whirlwind tour of New York State. Now to be honest, this trip was taken to visit family and to take my daughter to the beach to frolic in the oceans with her cousins, make sand castles and search for sea shells. Being a mountain girl she doesn’t often get to do these things. Luckily for me, my wife and daughter like to sleep in a little late most mornings when on vacation which allows me time to sneak out and photograph for an hour or two before everyone else starts waking for the day at more civil hours.
Tioratti Creek in Harriman State Park rumbles through the moss covered boulders plush with green from recent rains. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 24-70mm F4 IS L
Tioratti Creek in Harriman State Park rumbles through the moss covered boulders plush with green from recent rains. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 24-70mm F4 IS L

Because my family lives downstate, and my wife’s family lives upstate I get to work my way through some of the very diverse scenery New York State has to offer. One of my favorite locations downstate is Harriman State Park and the area around Bear Mountain State Park. While Bear Mountain State Park has commanding views of the Hudson River and Hudson Valley, Harriman State Park is chock full of beautiful lakes, tree’s and bubbling brooks and streams. This year there has been plenty of moisture of late, so Harriman was green and the brooks and streams where all still running. Harriman State Park is an amazing location with endless possibilities for photographers. I’ll be back again in the fall which is my favorite time of year to photograph Harriman State Park.

After a few days at my Mom’s house north of New York City, it was off to the east end of Long Island for a few days at the beach. I’m lucky enough to have a few relatives who invite us to stay with them each summer so we can spend time out east in Southampton, New York. If it was not for their generosity, I doubt we would have the opportunity to spend time in this beautiful location.The beaches and bay’s around the area are spectacular. Access and parking can be difficult around some of the beaches and waterways but with sunrise around 5:15 AM this time of year one can photograph sunrise long before any of the parking patrol’s go on duty. It’s fun for me to go from shooting 10,000 to 11,000 ft above sea level to shooting at sea level.

Eagle Cliff Falls plunges down into Havana Glen. Havana Glen is another example of the variety of subjects to photograph in New York State. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 16-35mm F2.8 L II
Eagle Cliff Falls plunges down into Havana Glen. Havana Glen is another example of the variety of subjects to photograph in New York State. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 16-35mm F2.8 L II

Lastly, we spent the end of the week along New York’s Southern Tier and Finger Lake region with Holly’s family. The Finger Lake region is one of my favorite locations to photograph. The gorges, waterfalls and large lakes are a photographers dream come true. I have not even scratched the surface on exploring this area. With only 2 mornings to photograph I spent my time in Watkins Glen, Havana Glen and around Tughannock Falls north of Ithaca. I’m looking forward to returning to this area this fall to photograph this area amongst the fall foliage.

With our trip back to New York successful and feet planted safely back on Colorado soil, I’m looking forward to getting out and devoting most of my time this summer that of photographing Rocky Mountain National Park and continue to add to my growing portfolio of the park. I’ll be back again this fall, but until then I’m looking forward to getting back into the mountains and breathing the thin air.

Lily Lake Morning

While I don't often enjoy rushing through a morning of photography and instead would like to be able to take my time, thats a commodity we often don't have enough of. A quick trip to Lily Lake for sunrise before rushing back to airport to fly back east worked out better than I could have hoped for. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 24mm TS-E F3.5 L II
While I don’t often enjoy rushing through a morning of photography and instead would like to be able to take my time, thats a commodity we often don’t have enough of. A quick trip to Lily Lake for sunrise before rushing back to airport to fly back east worked out better than I could have hoped for. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 24mm TS-E F3.5 L II
been a whirlwind week for me. I’m currently back on the east coast visiting with family as well as taking some time early in the mornings to get out, explore and photograph landscapes that are very different from my usual Colorado haunts. Waterfalls, beaches and lots of green stuff to shoot here in New York which makes for a nice change of pace.

I flew out to New York from Colorado just after 9:00 AM on Saturday. Before I left I had to get one more morning sunrise in Rocky Mountain National Park. I was limited to where I could go shoot because I would only have a short amount of time before I needed to hustle to Denver International Airport to make my flight. With sunrise at 5:30 AM I figured I would have just enough time to get somewhere for sunrise but of course hiking long distances was out of the question.

I find it easy to overlook some of the areas of Rocky Mountain National Park that don’t require long hikes or huge efforts to access come summertime. It’s fun opening a map of the park and finding far away lakes to explore and photograph but sometimes this approach leads me to neglect some of my favorite, more easily accessible locations.

Restrictions placed on your photography oftentimes can be the most beneficial. It can keep you focused and forced to work within your limitations. So with all that said, Lily Lake made for a perfect spot to spend a truncated morning in Rocky. Of course having an amazing sunrise made it all the more worthwhile and made the rush back down to the airport to catch my flight.

The Folly Of Perfection

Sunrise lights the Flatirons  from Chautauqua Park. Clouds on the eastern plains of Colorado obscured first light and prevented the clouds from turning to shades of pink. Furthermore the wind was blowing just enough to cause a few of the wildflowers in the foreground to blur. Not having things break exactly as I wanted distracted me from enjoying the moment as much as I wanted. Looking back although the conditions were not perfect, it's an image I'm very pleased with. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 17mm TS-E F4 L
Sunrise lights the Flatirons from Chautauqua Park. Clouds on the eastern plains of Colorado obscured first light and prevented the clouds from turning to shades of pink. Furthermore the wind was blowing just enough to cause a few of the wildflowers in the foreground to blur. Not having things break exactly as I wanted distracted me from enjoying the moment as much as I wanted. Looking back although the conditions were not perfect, it’s an image I’m very pleased with. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 17mm TS-E F4 L
landscape photographers I know strive to create images that are beautiful, dramatic and as close to technically flawless as possible. With the amount of talented landscape photographers exponentially increasing and the endless ways of showcasing and sharing images both on online and in print, viewing beautiful landscape photography is a click or page away. The quantity and quality of images has never been greater. Being bombarded with this constant flow of spectacular images can make it feel as if attaining images of similar caliber is like trying to catch lighting in a bottle.

This overload of imagery leads many photographers down a path thats simply not attainable, nor healthy for their artistic pursuits, that of the search for perfection. The search for the perfect image, perfect conditions, perfect sunrise detracts from being in the moment, from appreciating fully the time at hand. It’s a difficult concept for some but let me spell it out. There is no such thing as a perfect image, perfect camera, perfect lens or perfect location. We may be able to achieve near perfect images that are compelling, pleasing or even near technically perfect, but they will never in actuality be perfect. The inherent flaws of the artist and the medium are what make the image unique and compelling. Over the last 20 years I have seen many talented photographers burn themselves out and put their cameras away for good all because they were searching for the unattainable goal of perfection.

Wind was raking the surface of Bear Lake. Ideally I would have liked to include more of Longs Peak in the photo. Only the western portion of the lake was smooth enough to capture a reflection so I had to compromise on my location. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III,24-70mm F4 IS L
Wind was raking the surface of Bear Lake. Ideally I would have liked to include more of Longs Peak in the photo. Only the western portion of the lake was smooth enough to capture a reflection so I had to compromise on my location. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III,24-70mm F4 IS L

Why the rant on perfection?. Mostly because I found myself falling into the trap a little more than I was comfortable with last week. Success in landscape photography seems to come in ebbs and flows. Some weeks it seems you cant miss. Every sunrise is dramatic, beautiful clouds hover over the peaks and the wind is calm. Inevitably, the tide will turn and things wont go exactly as you want them to. Clouds may obscure the sunrise that looked so promising, or the wind may be blowing as a gale when you arrive at that alpine lake after a 6 mile predawn hike. I find it’s as easy to fall into the trap when things are breaking your way just as much as when there not. Either way I’ve gotten better over time in recognizing when the search for perfection starts affecting my enjoyment in the field and being present in the moment regardless how successful an outing is.

It was a combination of sunrise at Chautauqua Park and a morning in Rocky Mountain National Park in conditions that I thought were less than ideal that had me pressing a little more than I was comfortable with. Funny enough, both morning yielded images that I’m very pleased with. Stepping back, sticking with it and more importantly being present in the moment helped wrestle the perfection bug back to the ground and off my back.

Key To The Loch

The Cathedral Wall glows with the first rays of sun as the fog lifts from The Loch and Loch Vale. These rare moments are what make Rocky Mountain National Park such a magical place. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 17mm TS-E F4 L
The Cathedral Wall glows with the first rays of sun as the fog lifts from The Loch and Loch Vale. These rare moments are what make Rocky Mountain National Park such a magical place. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 17mm TS-E F4 L
Somebody needs to send the memo to Mother Nature that summer is just around the corner. Mother nature seems a bit confused as to how she is supposed to start behaving, it just wont be me. Rain, snow, fog and wind have all made regular appearances into June making for some very interesting conditions for photography.

One of my favorite locations in Rocky Mountain National Park is The Loch, and when the weather is unsettled it always lives up to its billing. Abner Sprague is credited with giving the Loch and Loch Vale area its name. On a foggy or rainy day the landscape is certainly reminiscent of a Scottish lake though this is not exactly how the Sprague came up with the name.

Abner Sprague guided many of the early adventurers through what was to become Rocky Mountain National Park. During one of these trips Sprague and his client Mr. Locke were hunkered down in a snowstorm overnight near Fern Lake. After surviving the night near Fern Lake with Mr. Locke, Sprague named a lake in his honor. Sprague named The Loch after Mr. Locke but instead altered Mr. Locke’s name more fittingly to that of a Scottish lake.

There are unlimited scenic wonders in Rocky Mountain National Park. That being said, anytime I have an opportunity to return to The Loch while dramatic weather conditions are unfolding I jump at the chance. It’s hard to pass up The Loch’s dramatic beauty which is only compounded when fog and clouds cloak the peaks surrounding The Loch in a veil like fashion. So when I arrived at The Loch last week and found the waters still and the peaks shrouded I took a good few moments to just sit and enjoy the silence and serenity before watching the fog and clouds lift from the valley while the peaks bathed in the warm morning sun.

Welcomimg Back Trail Ridge

Looking across rugged Forest Canyon, drop under light illuminates the still heavy snowpack on Mount Ida. The opening of Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park is a welcome event which allows more options for photographers to chase the light in Rocky. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 70-300mm F4-5.6 L  IS
Looking across rugged Forest Canyon, drop under light illuminates the still heavy snowpack on Mount Ida. The opening of Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park is a welcome event which allows more options for photographers to chase the light in Rocky. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 70-300mm F4-5.6 L IS
doesn’t get any better than when the park service finally gets Trail Ridge Road cleared and open for business each year. It signals the beginning of summer, a change in the weather as well as access to many part of Rocky Mountain National Park that would otherwise require herculean efforts to access. Photographers can now have access to many more area of the park to shoot and create images. Access to the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park is now a snap as opposed to having to travel around and over Berthoud Pass.

The opening of Trail Ridge Road still requires vigilance. After it’s opening in May, Trail Ridge Road had to be temporarily closed down a few more times when it was again covered by snow. I made my first trip over Trail Ridge on Sunday June 1st. A dusting of light snow awaited me in the areas around Forest Canyon Overlook as well as the Rock Cut and Alpine Visitor center areas. It certainly did not feel like June 1st but then that’s to be expected at the higher elevations in Colorado where the push towards summer sometimes seems as if its being led by a pack of turtles.

So with the high peaks still covered with lots of snow, an early trip over Trail Ridge Road can be rewarding for photographers. Locations that are accessible in summer only to the most determined adventurers such as the Hayden Gorge and Gorge Lakes area can be photographed across Forest Canyon with relative ease from overlooks and pull offs along Trail Ridge road.

A subtle but beautiful morning sunrise from the Rainbow Curve overlook along Trail Ridge Road. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 70-300mm F4-5.6 L IS
A subtle but beautiful morning sunrise from the Rainbow Curve overlook along Trail Ridge Road. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 70-300mm F4-5.6 L IS

Unlike other areas of Rocky Mountain National Park, the ability to drive along Trail Ridge road allows you to take advantage of changing conditions and move locations quickly. You’re not committed to a long hike from which you are unable to change locations as conditions warrant. While I’ll take hiking to a location in the park any day over driving, being able to traverse lots of terrain quickly in one’s vehicle while conditions rapidly change can lead to a bonanza of possibilities.

Sunday morning this worked quite well for me. Rain showers were moving over the Estes Valley and there was only a few small breaks in the cloud cover. Rainbow Curve provided the perfect location to photograph the muted sunrise to the east. The conditions in the sky were changing fairly quickly and it looked like the sun would break through some of the cloud cover, especially moving west along Trail Ridge Road. Rounding the bend near the Forest Canyon overlook I could see Mt. Julian catching dappled in speckled light as the sun broke through the cloud cover. Within a minute of setting of my camera and tripod the light had disappeared from the flanks of Mt. Julian. All in all another good morning on Trail Ridge Road. Did I mention how great it was to have it back open?

Change Of Plans

My original plan was this particular morning in Rocky  Mountain National Park was to hike up to the Loch for sunrise. Lack of clouds over the peaks and wind caused me to scramble and instead look to take advantage of the cloud cover that had built up over the eastern plains of Colorado. Staying flexible allowed me the ability to photograph this beautiful sunrise over Moraine Park and Cub Creek. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 24mm TS-E F3.5 L II
My original plan was this particular morning in Rocky Mountain National Park was to hike up to the Loch for sunrise. Lack of clouds over the peaks and wind caused me to scramble and instead look to take advantage of the cloud cover that had built up over the eastern plains of Colorado. Staying flexible allowed me the ability to photograph this beautiful sunrise over Moraine Park and Cub Creek. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 24mm TS-E F3.5 L II
it or not, sometimes it can be a struggle figuring out exactly what location I’m going to photograph on any particular morning. It can be a tug of war between committing yourself to hike many miles into a given location, versus changing it up based on photographing an area where the conditions are more favorable for dramatic conditions and lighting. Adjusting to the conditions present or committing to a location the night before both have their benefits, but they also open the possibility of overthink and indecision. I find overthink and indecision not conducive to photography. If they are not remedied quickly, one may be watching a beautiful sunrise unfold from a less than optimal location.

Sometimes however, you just have to ditch the plan, go with the flow and adapt to the conditions at hand. This was the position I found myself in last week in Rocky Mountain National Park. After a long winter I was looking forward to an early morning hike up to the Loch for sunrise. Of course a three mile long hike up to the Loch before sunrise requires a commitment. Once you set off from your car and get into the backcountry, your not going to have the time or energy to turn around and change your plans and put yourself in a good position for the fast approaching sunrise.

Conditions were looking pretty good as I drove through the Beaver Meadows entry to Rocky Mountain National Park. There were plenty of clouds hovering over the park which of course increases the probability for lots of color at sunrise. I made the left turn onto Bear Lake Road and wound my way down through Moraine Park. From Moraine Park one gets a commanding view of the continental divide and the prominent peaks on the east side of Rocky. I could see clearly from Moraine Park that all the clouds had moved east of the continental divide. It sure looked like the peaks would be devoid of any clouds this morning. Regardless I was determined to hike up to the Loch so I continued on to the Glacier Gorge parking lot hoping the cloud cover would thicken over the high peaks.

Arriving at the Glacier Gorge parking lot I could clearly see there were no clouds over any of the peaks to the west but plenty of clouds still to the east. Putting on my backpack I had a nagging feeling that I might not be in the best spot for sunrise. A gust of wind made my decision for me. No clouds over the peaks, lots of wind and decent cloud cover to the east and I was back in my truck quickly heading back down to Moraine Park.

I did not have a great plan at this point but sunrise to the east was looking promising. I figured I would get into the meadow in Moraine Park face east and setup near some water. I settled on a spot near where Cub Creek spills out into Moraine on it’s way towards the Big Thompson. Soon the sky above Moraine Park was ablaze with color and I was busy photographing one beautiful sunrise. So while I missed my hike to the Loch, changing up the game plan and staying flexible paid dividends for me this morning.

Topsy Turvy Spring

A topsy turvy spring its been. One minute were buried under a foot of snow, the next the grass is greening and the streams are flowing. A beautiful spring morning unfolds over Moraine Park and the now thawed Big Thomspon River in Rocky Mountain National Park. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 24mm TS-E F3.5 L II
A topsy turvy spring its been. One minute were buried under a foot of snow, the next the grass is greening and the streams are flowing. A beautiful spring morning unfolds over Moraine Park and the now thawed Big Thomspon River in Rocky Mountain National Park. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 24mm TS-E F3.5 L II
been another good week for photography. Our spate of interesting and unsettled weather has kept me on my toes adjusting to the conditions and working on some new compositions. With the Memorial Day holiday right around the corner, Trail Ridge Road should be opened no later than May 23rd according to the park service. Currently Trail Ridge Road is open to Rainbow Curve so even know some new opportunities are opening. It’s going to feel great to a ride over Trail Ridge as the September flooding and park closures last year made it difficult to access before the winter weather finally closed the road for the season.

The cool wet spring in Rocky Mountain National Park looks as if its been delaying some of the harbingers of spring. While water is flowing and many of the lakes now have open water, many of the trails in the higher elevations are still covered in considerable snow cover. Grasses in Moraine and Horseshoe park are starting to turn green while many aspen trees have just started to bud out. I’m expecting that the combination of rain last fall, good snowpack over the winter and a wet spring will allow for a precipitous wildflower bloom in Rocky this year. Other than Pasque flowers and some cactus plants, there is yet to be any signs of wildflowers blooming at the lower elevations in the park as of yet.

Golden Banner is blooming in many of the open space properties in and around Boulder. These wildflowers may have survived the snowstorm last week, but the weight of the snow has pushed them down close to the ground and prickly pear cactus. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 24-70mm F4 IS L
Golden Banner is blooming in many of the open space properties in and around Boulder. These wildflowers may have survived the snowstorm last week, but the weight of the snow has pushed them down close to the ground and prickly pear cactus. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 24-70mm F4 IS L

Down in Boulder things are a little more green and the wildflower bloom has started in ernest throughout the open space properties in town. Golden Banner is currently blooming over many of the Open Space and Mountain Park’s properties with Chautauqua Park being the best location to photograph dense clumps that mostly survived last weeks snowstorm. I also spied a few clumps of early blooming Silver Lupine in Chautauqua meadow below the Flatirons. It’s a bit early for lupine but I would expect them to start peaking within a few weeks.

So while Rocky Mountain National Park still has a little ways to go before wildflowers begin to bloom in the lower lying areas and snow still needs to melt at the higher elevations, the open space properties around Boulder are well on their way to summer like conditions with good patches of wildflowers to be found with more on the way.

Seasons?, What Seasons!

A rough and tumble morning on Cub Lake as the sunrise lights the sky. Stones Peak is nearly covered in blowing snow and the winds are raking over the surface of Cub Lake. Just another spring day in Rocky Mountain National Park!. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 24-70mm F4 IS L
A rough and tumble morning on Cub Lake as the sunrise lights the sky. Stones Peak is nearly covered in blowing snow and the winds are raking over the surface of Cub Lake. Just another spring day in Rocky Mountain National Park!. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 24-70mm F4 IS L
Weather in the Rockies is an interesting thing. The extremes between seasons are dramatic and can whipsaw quickly. In fact, in my sixteen years of living here on the Front Range of Colorado the entire concept of there actually being such a thing as seasons can seem downright laughable at times. How many places in the United States can one wake in the morning, clear a foot of snow of their car, start it and have the air conditioning still blasting full force from the previous days warm temperatures?

As I write this, I’m staring out my window at trees with vibrant greens leaves of spring. The issue of course is there is a good six inches of snow covering the leaves and branches of said tree from last nights storm, and oh yeah, the snow is still falling. I’m not complaining. Bad weather makes for great images and as the saying goes, when the weather gives you lemons, you need to make lemonade or something to that extent.

While there was still a good amount of snow hanging around the higher elevations of Rocky Mountain National Park, spring like conditions where quickly starting to settle in. Lakes and streams in the lower to mid elevations of the park had thawed and are free from ice. In fact many of the lakes even at higher elevations had thawed to the point of having large areas of water free from ice. It’s an exciting time of year when winter starts to release it’s grip and new opportunities for photography open up.

Springtime in the Rockies means just about every kind of weather is possible. Fresh snow covers the green spring grasses near the outlet of the lake as the sun rises to the east. Technical Detail: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 24-70mm F4 IS L
Springtime in the Rockies means just about every kind of weather is possible. Fresh snow covers the green spring grasses near the outlet of the lake as the sun rises to the east. Technical Detail: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 24-70mm F4 IS L

So with a large spring snowstorm bearing down on Rocky Mountain National Park, I decided to head up to Cub Lake for sunrise before the snow really started flying. It’s always impressive to watch the weather conditions transform as a storm system moves over the park. The high peaks of the park are enveloped in with clouds, snow begins to blow over the continental divide and the wind begins to pick up. Not necessarily the best conditions for photography, but conditions that may at least lead to some drama in the sky and over the peaks.

With the wind howling, and snow blowing I arrived at Cub Lake before sunrise. Like I always do when its this windy, I checked for some area of water that was partially sheltered from the winds which where forming small white caps on Cub Lake. No such luck, pretty much the entire lake was being raked by the wind. There was one small area near the outlet to the lake which was not as choppy and a little more smooth than directly along the shoreline. Problem is I would have to wade into the mud a foot plus deep water to get in a position to photograph.

The sky was starting to fill with intense color over Cub Lake. Off I went wading through the mud, muck, water and snow with camera and tripod in hand. I would not be able to capture a reflection of Stones Peak from this location, but the greening grasses growing from the lake made a nice enough foreground. So while the wind only intensified, the light and color put on by the rising sun was well worth wet pants, boots and cold feet.

Rocky’s New Opportunities

A muted but still beautiful sunrise takes hold over Rocky Mountain National Park and Sprague Lake. Conditions in Rocky Mountain National Park are quickly transitioning to late spring conditions with many of the lakes at lower elevations thawed or nearly thawed. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 17mm TS-E F4
A muted but still beautiful sunrise takes hold over Rocky Mountain National Park and Sprague Lake. Conditions in Rocky Mountain National Park are quickly transitioning to late spring conditions with many of the lakes at lower elevations thawed or nearly thawed. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 17mm TS-E F4
It can be difficult to contain my excitement when I think of summer settling into Rocky Mountain National Park. I can think of no place I’d rather be then hiking back down a trail after shooting sunrise at one of Rocky’s hundreds of backcountry alpine lakes and tarns. The warm sun on your face, the smell of the pines amplified by the morning dew, hopscotching around the puddles on the trail from the previous nights thunderstorms are experiences as close to nirvana as anything I can imagine.

Summer season in Rocky is almost here. Sure there is lots of snow in the high country of Rocky, but conditions are changing quickly. The weather is finally warming and the snow is starting to melt at a good pace. Lakes like Sprague and Cub have mostly thawed and are free from ice. Many of the other lakes around 9000 ft or less have also opened up or are partially open. Grasses are starting to green in both Moraine and Horseshoe park. Summer will be here before you know it, and I for one can wait.

Besides checking out the conditions around Rocky Mountain National Park this week, I also took the time to photograph a few mornings. In particular, I was able to photograph one area that I’ve been eyeing since last fall. It’s an image that was not possible before last Septembers flooding. The flooding while devastating has mostly been mitigated to a point that only small areas of Rocky Mountain National Park are affected.

Stream crossings on many trailheads are missing and many places along Old Fall River road have been washed out, but considering the vastness of Rocky these will only prove to be minor inconveniences for summer visitors to Rocky. The power and scope of the flooding is still evident in Rocky Mountain National Park in many areas however. In particular the landscape along the Roaring River and the Alluvial Fan reveals the intensity with which the flooding occurred.

The September 2013 flooding caused a good amount of damage to Rocky. Even so, it has also opened up new opportunities such as this image of Bighorn Mountain and the Roaring River at sunrise. Technical Details: Canon Eos 5D Mark III, 17mm TS-E F4 L
The September 2013 flooding caused a good amount of damage to Rocky. Even so, it has also opened up new opportunities such as this image of Bighorn Mountain and the Roaring River at sunrise. Technical Details: Canon Eos 5D Mark III, 17mm TS-E F4 L

The Alluvial Fan was formed when a man made dam failed at Lawn Lake on July 15th, 1982. Three visitors lost their lives and the dam break flooded downtown Estes Park. The torrent of water pushed boulders and sand downstream forming the Alluvial Fan in Horseshoe Park. Fast forward to September of 2013 and the area saw a near repeat of the Lawn Lake dam break, this time caused by nearly 20 inches of rain over a three day period.

The September flooding once again greatly altered the area around the Alluvial Fan and the Roaring River. At the base of the Alluvial Fan, the Roaring River jumped it’s banks and diverted itself from flowing southward, to instead flowing around the road bridge on Old Fall River road and heading due west prior to resuming it’s southerly course a quarter of a mile downstream. This new course forged by the Roaring River due west has opened up some new photographic potential around the Alluvial Fan.

With the Roaring River now flowing east to west over this newly formed 1/4 mile course, I had been waiting for favorable conditions to photograph this area. A combination of increased spring runoff combined with some nice clouds over Horseshoe Park last week brought just the right conditions to photograph this area.

While I’m used to making attempts to photograph places in Rocky that are often new to me, it’s not everyday that I actually have the opportunity to photograph something new without having to wait the usual thousands of years or so that natures slow pace typically dictates. So out of all the destruction and loss the September flooding has caused, the silver lining is that it has also created new opportunities to photograph Rocky Mountain National Park as well.