A Windy Sunrise From Many Parks

With the wind whipping snow across Upper Beaver Meadows and Moraine Park, the rising sun peaks over the eastern horizon. When photographing Rocky Mountain National Park in winter be prepared for windy conditions. The all too common windy conditions found in RMNP can make photography difficult but if you manage to keep your camera still long enough can also make for dramatic imagery. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 24-70mm F4 IS
With the wind whipping snow across Upper Beaver Meadows and Moraine Park, the rising sun peaks over the eastern horizon. When photographing Rocky Mountain National Park in winter be prepared for windy conditions. The all too common windy conditions found in RMNP can make photography difficult but if you manage to keep your camera still long enough can also make for dramatic imagery. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 24-70mm F4 IS
All of us who have spend considerable time in Rocky Mountain National Park have learned to love and appreciate the winds that are such a common companion on our outings. Actually, love and appreciate may be worded a little to strongly, but we at least learn to deal with the conditions at hand and pretend we love and appreciate the high winds.

It’s nearly a given that winds will be present in Rocky Mountain National Park during the winter season. So as I see it, you basically have two things you can do to mitigate the potential of high winds when photographing Rocky in the winter. Your first option is to stay home. Add wood to the fireplace, grab a cup of coffee and review your images from the warm an pleasant summer months and countdown the days until summer returns to the peaks and meadows.

Your other option is to suck it up, head out and make a go of it. Photographing Rocky in the high winds can be uncomfortable. Furthermore, keeping your equipment still enough in the high winds can mean that even if the lighting and weather conditions are favorable, the chance of you actually capturing a sharp image may be difficult.

Over the years I’ve had my share of both options. Whenever I chose the first option and stay at home I feel I’m missing out. Wind is as much a part of Rocky as are it’s herds of Elk and Bighorn sheep. Opting not to photograph in conditions that typify Rocky Mountain National Park in the winter season is generally not a viable one for me to undertake.

Wind blown snow flies across the horizon and over Deer Mountain as the orange pre dawn glow of sunrise begins to light the sky over Rocky Mountain National Park. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 24-70mm F4 IS
Wind blown snow flies across the horizon and over Deer Mountain as the orange pre dawn glow of sunrise begins to light the sky over Rocky Mountain National Park. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 24-70mm F4 IS

While photographing alongside the wind in Rocky Mountain National Park may result in disappointing outings, the dynamic conditions the winds present every now and again will provide dynamic, albeit gritty conditions.

I was lucky enough to come away with some keepers late last week while photographing in a very windy Rocky Mountain National Park. Conditions change quickly when its windy in the park, so it can be difficult trying to decide which locations will offer the best chance at coming away with a few keepers.

The continental divide was blanketed and obscured. Snow and clouds were being blown off the divide and quickly moving towards the east which remained clear. The high winds were blowing blankets of snow and clouds eastward so finding a vantage point facing east and towards the rising sun appeared most likely to yield results.

So I headed up Trail Ridge Road towards Many Parks curve to check scope out the view over Upper Beaver Meadows and Moraine Park. My vehicle rocking and bouncing as blasts of winds rolled over hill and dale. With every gust of wind, my expectations lowered. Photographing in this squall was going to be nearly impossible I thought to myself.

I soon arrived at Many Parks curve. An orange glow to the east was forming on the horizon and it appeared the sun would at least make an appearance this morning. I unpacked my camera gear, setup my tripod and composed an image. I had to keep a hand on my tripod to keep it from blowing off the side of the mountain but I could see the potential if I could just manage to get a few shots off in between the blasts of wind as the sun rose and hopefully illuminated the clouds racing through the sky.

Within minutes the sky started to fill with brilliant color. For brief moments the wind would abate allowing me to get a few shots off before another gust would roll off the mountainside and I’d have to brace myself and my gear. The colors of a warm sunrise combined with sheets of snow blowing across the valley made for surreal and dreamy conditions. Finally the sun itself rose over the horizon and for a few short moments I was able to capture this spectacular scene unfolding over Rocky.

While the wind made conditions difficult, it was also the wind that allowed for such a dramatic sunrise to unfold behind the diffused light caused by the blowing snow. It may not have been the kind of day that I’d want to be outside for and extended period of time, but being outside in the elements for sunrise was certainly well worth it.

A Sense Of Place

The first sunrise of 2014 unfolds over Rocky Mountain National Park and Moraine Park. New snow covers the meadow and the frozen Big Thompson river as it snakes it's way eastward towards Estes Park. The view on this morning is quite different from this location on New Years Day then a few days following. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 24mm TS-E F3.5 L II
The first sunrise of 2014 unfolds over Rocky Mountain National Park and Moraine Park. New snow covers the meadow and the frozen Big Thompson river as it snakes it’s way eastward towards Estes Park. The view on this morning is quite different from this location on New Years Day then a few days following. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 24mm TS-E F3.5 L II

Visitors to this blog know that I try to hammer home the point that one has to visit a location many times, in different season and varying weather conditions to convey a sense of place which will show through in your photography.

If you photographed long enough you’ve likely had moments of serendipity where you’ve shown up at a location and more or less by chance and luck had once in a lifetime type conditions unfold in front of you and your camera. While you may be thinking to yourself that these kind of conditions happen all of the time, the reality is luck and timing worked in your favor.

Four days after New Years day, the conditions in Moraine Park were quite different. I'm facing westward as opposed to eastward in this view and the heavy snow made for interesting conditions which allowed me to photograph this tree in high-key. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 70-300mm F4-5.6 L
Four days after New Years day, the conditions in Moraine Park were quite different. I’m facing westward as opposed to eastward in this view and the heavy snow made for interesting conditions which allowed me to photograph this tree in high-key. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 70-300mm F4-5.6 L

There’s a fine line between obsessing and spending to much time on a given location, and giving up to easily or thinking you have a given location in the bag so to speak. I can recount many instances when I’ve thought to myself that I’ve captured a location in a manner that can not be improved upon, only to make second and third attempts and find there is no such thing as a ‘final statement’ image.

There are just to many possibilities when photographing a given location to think one can make ‘final statement’ images. The light changes, the sky changes, the weather changes as does the flora. The possibilities are limitless.

So with that in mind, I spent the first few days of the new year photographing a particular Ponderosa pine that sits on a hillside in Moraine Park. 2014 has been cold and unsettled so Rocky Mountain National Park has had its share of snow, cold and clouds to start the new year.

The ‘Polar Vortex’ as it is know known is our lexicon, allowed me to photograph this one particular location from both different angles while also allowing me to convey very different representations and moods of both the same location and tree. It’s a good example of why its important to keep visiting the same locations and coming away with differing results. In other words, visiting the same location many times with your camera is one of the most effective ways to communicate a sense of place to your audience.

2013, It’s A Wrap

Here is my last image taken in 2013. As you may recall, my first image of 2013 was also of the Flatirons freshly coated with new snow. While the clouds disappeared right before first light lit up the Flatirons over Boulder, the pre-dawn light while subdued, helped convey the quiet and calm of this winter morning from Eldorado Springs. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 17mm TS-E F4 L
Here is my last image taken in 2013. As you may recall, my first image of 2013 was also of the Flatirons freshly coated with new snow. While the clouds disappeared right before first light lit up the Flatirons over Boulder, the pre-dawn light while subdued, helped convey the quiet and calm of this winter morning from Eldorado Springs. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 17mm TS-E F4L
2013 is nearly wrapped up. It’s been a very productive year for me and while I mostly concentrated on adding new material to my Rocky Mountain National Park galleries, I was able to add images I’m pleased with to my other galleries as well including visits to Grand Teton National Park, as well as New York both in the summer and fall.

This time of year I enjoy looking at other photographers blogs. It’s become commonplace to post a ‘best of 2013’ review for your year end blog. We all love countdowns and top 10 lists because they are able to condense lots of information into a tiny, easily digestible package.

However, I wont be posting a ‘best of 2013’ this year. While each year I contemplate doing it, I end up talking myself out of it. During the course of the year, I try to post my best images to my blog as often as I can. I try to accompany them with information relative to the locations and experiences and work that went into making the image. I figure for most I’d only be duplicating work found in the archives from this past year.

So in wishing everybody a happy New Year, I just like to thank all my frequent visitors as well as clients who helped make 2013 a success. I’ll end 2013 much the way I started it, with an image of the Boulder Flatirons coated in fresh snow, my last portfolio image of 2013. Here’s to 2014!.

Over The Hump

Sunrise unfolds over the Mummy Range and Ypsilon Mountain on the winter solstice. Snow squalls and clouds are seen blowing over the peaks of the Mummy Range as a colorful magenta sunrise briefly lights the mountainsides. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 24-70mm F4 IS L
Sunrise unfolds over the Mummy Range and Ypsilon Mountain on the winter solstice. Snow squalls and clouds are seen blowing over the peaks of the Mummy Range as a colorful magenta sunrise briefly lights the mountainsides. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 24-70mm F4 IS L
Yes, we’re finally over the hump. The hump of darkness that is. While something about that last statement doesn’t really sound right, I’ll still take the time to celebrate. Of course what I’m actually celebrating is the winter solstice. We’ve finally passed that point on the calendar were it’s all downhill from here. The days are no longer getting shorter, but from now until June 20th, daylight will increase and the sun will begin it’s slow march north in the sky.

I took time out on the winter solstice to photograph sunrise in Rocky. The Mummy Range makes for a perfect subject during these short days. The peaks of the Mummy range are oriented in a southeasterly direction which allows first light to cover the peaks with an array of intense color. After a short hike up Trail Ridge Road from Many Parks Curve I arrived at my location and setup my camera.

Winds blew waves of snow over the summit of Ypsilon Mountain and the clouds thickened over the peaks periodically shrouding the summits in white. There was only a small break on the eastern horizon to let the rising suns rays through the clouds and that small break in the clouds was getting smaller as sunrise approached.

A magenta hue started to cover the sky and move down onto the snow capped peaks of the Mummy Range. The clouds and snow squalls swirling over the peaks obstructed much of the early light, but even so, enough of the sun worked it’s way through to illuminate the flanks of the mountainsides with beautiful warm light. Much like the shortened day light hours of winter, the light show was short lived but very much appreciated.

Breezy Days

December can be a difficult time of year to motivate yourself to get out of the comforts of your bed and photograph Rocky Mountain National Park in less than ideal conditions. It's windy, cold, and the snow will be blowing even on a clear day. Even still there are lots of opportunities for those willing to put up with some discomfort. This was one of those days in the park. High winds were raking over the divide but clouds and blowing snow left the door open for an interesting sunrise. Here the slopes of Otis Peak can be seen as sun lights the morning sky and clouds and snow skirt the flanks of Otis Peak. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 70-300mm F4-5.6 L
December can be a difficult time of year to motivate yourself to get out of the comforts of your bed and photograph Rocky Mountain National Park in less than ideal conditions. It’s windy, cold, and the snow will be blowing even on a clear day. Even still there are lots of opportunities for those willing to put up with some discomfort. This was one of those days in the park. High winds were raking over the divide but clouds and blowing snow left the door open for an interesting sunrise. Here the slopes of Otis Peak can be seen as sun lights the morning sky and clouds and snow skirt the flanks of Otis Peak. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 70-300mm F4-5.6 L
This time of year can be a difficult one for photography in and around Rocky Mountain National Park. Storm systems move over the east side of the park bringing with them high winds and little snow.

Furthermore, the most popular areas and peaks on the east side of Rocky around Bear Lake and Glacier Gorge have a northeast facing orientation. With the sun rising well to the south, the peaks around Bear Lake and Glacier Gorge only have portions of their granite monoliths in favorable lighting with many of them remaining in deep shadows. This makes most of the iconic locals in Rocky Mountain National Park less than favorable for prime light during the shortest days of the year.

Even so there are plenty of subjects and compositions to experiment with. The winds that seem omnipresent this time of year in Rocky create interesting lighting and effects around the high peaks. Blowing snow is a constant and typically there are clouds socked in and around the continental divide. This combination can make for an interesting subject, especially if the photographer does not mind being blown about by the wind while trying to make images.

The winds rake the ridgelines and clouds and blowing snow follow the winds lead. Sunrise may be somewhat muted by the clouds and blowing snow but paying attention to the ridgelines and clouds, compositions and potential is endless. The blowing snow creates a low contrast, impressionistic feel to the icy mountainsides.

While December may not be the best time to photograph Rocky Mountain National Park, possibilities abound if you don’t mind being tossed around by the wind and trying to time your shots between gusts. Try to think of the unique possibilities this time of year presents and ignore the fact that your parked car is shaking back and forth like a top when your getting ready to head out from the Bear Lake parking lot and enjoy the season.

Frozen Flatirons

A bone chilling sunrise unfolds over Boulder, Colorado and the Flatirons from Chautauqua Park. It was -9 degrees Fahrenheit in the meadow this morning which made it difficult enough just to work my camera. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 17mm TS-E F4 L
A bone chilling sunrise unfolds over Boulder, Colorado and the Flatirons from Chautauqua Park. It was -9 degrees Fahrenheit in the meadow this morning which made it difficult enough just to work my camera. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 17mm TS-E F4 L
It probably goes without saying but if you live in Colorado people just assume you love the snow and cold. While that’s mostly true, there are some days that leave me dreaming of Summer and warmer weather. Winter photography can make even the most mundane landscapes look magical so it’s always worth the effort involved getting out in the field on a wintry morning.

There are some mornings however, when even those of us who enjoy the winter season have to push ourselves out of our warm bed in the morning. Last Friday morning was just one of those days for me. Arctic air had settled in over Colorado earlier in the week. Sub zero cold temperatures had settled in over Colorado and the Front Range along with a daily dose of light snow.

The whether conditions were culminating to a point where it became apparent, that one of these frosty mornings would be conducive to a cold but productive morning of photography.

I crawled out of the warm comforts of bed on Friday morning to find the thermometer reading a balmy -9 degrees Fahrenheit. I checked and scanned the horizon looking for snow and or clear skies. If it was crystal clear or snowing, I could use that as an excuse to crawl back into bed. I’d have no such luck, clouds drifted overhead and the horizon looked clear meaning a beautiful sunrise on the freshly snow covered peaks was looking likely.

No crawling back into bed for me, it was time to hustle, bundle up like a mummy and head out to that cold piece of metal otherwise known as my truck. I figured Chautauqua Park in Boulder would be as good a place as any for sunrise, and even more so since it would only be a short hike out into the meadow on this cold morning.

Arriving at Chautauqua Park, I hiked out into the meadow and began setting up my camera in the stillness of the morning. Even though it was cold, I love being in Chautauqua Meadow overlooking Boulder before sunrise. It’s amazing how even a bustling town like Boulder can be so quiet and peaceful in the stillness before dawn.

On a cold morning like this, waiting for sunrise can seem like an eternity. I was setup no more than 20 minutes before dawn, but the warmth of my truck had quickly dissipated into the chill of morning. Finally the clouds above the Flatirons started glowing with the color of the approaching sunrise.

The first rays of sunlight dapple the Flatirons in pink as clouds glide over the mountain peaks and snow coated pines of Chautauqua Park. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 24-70mm F4 IS L
The first rays of sunlight dapple the Flatirons in pink as clouds glide over the mountain peaks and snow coated pines of Chautauqua Park. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 24-70mm F4 IS L

My Achilles heel in cold weather has always been my fingers. No matter how hard I try, or what gloves I try my fingers always end up becoming painfully frozen within a matter of minutes. Obviously I need to work my camera and feather my neutral density filter by hand over my lens as I’m photographing. It becomes quite a task at this point to keep my fingers out of the lens and the shot, and keep my hands warm enough to even hold the filter and fire the cable release.

So in between cursing at the cold and attempting to periodically warm my hands, I was able to photograph the a beautiful albeit frigid sunrise over the Flatirons. When it was over, I barely enough feeling left in my fingers to pack my bag and fold up my tripod. A short sprint back to my truck ensued and I sat in my vehicle frozen like a block of ice for a good 10 minutes before I felt coordinated and thawed out enough to drive back home.

My love hate relationship with the cold always quickly comes to an end when I’m back at home in front of my computer with a hot cup of coffee editing my images. I quickly forget the cold when finding images I’m pleased with. So until the next morning I’m out in the field with no feeling in my fingers, I’ll welcome more opportunities for cold and snow.

My Friend The Tree

A lone ponderosa pine tree welcomes a new day from atop its perch over Four Mile Creek in Boulder. Tree's like this one inspire me to photograph what to some may be the most mundane locations. Tree's tell stories and add character to any locations and make for endless opportunities for photographers. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 70-300mm F4-5.6 IS L
A lone ponderosa pine tree welcomes a new day from atop its perch over Four Mile Creek in Boulder. Tree’s like this one inspire me to photograph what to some may be the most mundane locations. Tree’s tell stories and add character to any locations and make for endless opportunities for photographers. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 70-300mm F4-5.6 IS L
If you stop by here on occasion to read my blog or view my galleries you likely know that I’m a big fan of tree’s. Tree’s are one of, if not my favorite subjects to photograph. The variety, shapes, colors, and textures of trees make for limitless opportunities. For me tree’s epitomize a location as much as any mountain or sea would ever.

For me, tree’s not only take on a sense of place, but tree’s have their own stories, and struggles. The have a uniqueness, personality and will that shows through in their shape and form. When I’m photographing tree’s this is what I am hoping to convey in my images.

This Krumholtz tree is also one of my favorite subjects in all of Rocky Mountain National Park. Perched within Glacier Gorge, this particular tree has a shape and form that is unique. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 24mm TS-E F3.5 L II
Another example of a tree with great character. This is also one of my favorite subjects in all of Rocky Mountain National Park. Perched within Glacier Gorge, this Krumholtz tree has a shape and form that is one of a kind. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 24mm TS-E F3.5 L II

In my opinion, photographing beautiful mountain peaks is different that photographing trees. There are few mountain peaks that have not been photographed countless times before. While there are certainly iconic images of individual tree’s such as the Grand Teton National Park’s ‘Old Patriarch’, I have found some of the most beautiful trees in some of the least dramatic settings.

What I love best about tree’s is that ultimately no matter the time, season or place, tree’s continue to inspire me to get out my camera and create images. Tree’s are like Polaris was to mariners and explorers for me. No matter my location, familiar or not, my old friend the tree helps me navigate, learn and create images of the landscape.

Blues Over Boulder

Moody blue light drapes the landscape of Boulder as sunrise sets the Flatirons ablaze in red. The lightshow this morning lasted only a few minutes, but its experiences and scenes like these that keep me out in the field early and often. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 24-70mm F4 IS
Moody blue light drapes the landscape of Boulder as sunrise sets the Flatirons ablaze in red. The lightshow this morning lasted only a few minutes, but its experiences and scenes like these that keep me out in the field early and often. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 24-70mm F4 IS
The theme of late around here seems to be blue. While I’m not making a conscious effort to create images tinged in blue, it seems to be the meme of late and I’m going to just keep going with the flow.

After a week of chilly, cold and snowy weather, It was time to get out on the trail and see what subjects I could find to photograph. Some snow still clung to the pines along the flanks of the Flatirons and the sky above was filled with clouds.

Standard operating procedure on a morning like this is to take the dog out for a walk while scanning the eastern plains for breaks in the cloud cover. While walking the dog I can usually get a pretty good idea if there are breaks in the cloud cover over the eastern plains which might allow for some spectacular early morning drop under lighting.

Conditions were not looking all that promising when I scanned the horizon. The cloud were increasing and most of the eastern horizon appeared to be shrouded in clouds. Even so, I could make out a break or two in the dark skies or as we photographers like to call them ‘sucker holes’. Small breaks in the cloud cover are known as ‘sucker holes’ for their propensity to sucker you into thinking you are going to get some epic drop under light only to be left standing in the cold when the clouds block sunrise and the light fails to materialize.

I learned a long time ago that while it helps to assess and adapt to the conditions when photographing, not making excuses and being in the best position possible regardless of what you think may happen is the best policy for success. So with that I mind, I was going to head out regardless of how unlikely it appeared that the lighting would cooperate.

As is always the case, the minute I hit the trail and start hiking, the pretenses start to fade away and experience and thrill of being out in nature alone in the predawn hours quickly takes hold. Capturing the light is now secondary to the experience of the sights and sounds of the natural world.

Forty minutes later I arrive at my destination. I’m pre-occupied, enjoying the hike in so as not to be paying much attention to the skies over the eastern plains. I know there are plenty of clouds in the skies this morning as the snow covered landscape around me is draped in blue light prevalent in the pre-dawn hours. Trees now block my view to the east preventing a good assessment of whether or not I’ll have any drop under light.

I take off my pack, setup my tripod and camera and wait under the cool blue pre-dawn light. Shortly before sunrise the clouds over the Flatirons begin to take on a slight magenta hue which quickly begins to intensify. Soon the top of the Flatirons joins in and turns red amongst the backdrop of a cool, snow covered landscape. For a few short minutes the sky and the mountains standout against the backdrop of the blue shadows. As I release the shutter and photograph the magnificent scene before me I can only chuckle to myself that I would have even considered missing this opportunity.

Blue Adams

As the seasons transition into Winter in Rocky Mountain National Park, lots of photographers will pack away their gear and avoid heading out to explore Rocky. Sometimes photography during the 'brown season' is not as rewarding as Summer and Fall photography, but with a little imagination and exploration opportunities abound. Adams Falls is slowly giving up its flow of water and freezing over for the long Winter months. Rocks and deadfall freeze over and make for a beautiful scene of water and ice. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 24-105mm F4 IS L
As the seasons transition into Winter in Rocky Mountain National Park, lots of photographers will pack away their gear and avoid heading out to explore Rocky. Sometimes photography during the ‘brown season’ is not as rewarding as Summer and Fall photography, but with a little imagination and exploration opportunities abound. Adams Falls is slowly giving up its flow of water and freezing over for the long Winter months. Rocks and deadfall freeze over and make for a beautiful scene of water and ice. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 24-105mm F4 IS L
With Winter and the holidays approaching things around here are slowing down a bit. Work continues to repair damaged roads and property from the historic flooding in September but some sense of normalcy is beginning to return to the Estes Park, Rocky Mountain National Park and the northern Front Range.

It’s a good time to review images made over the past year and work on some that I may have placed on the back burner awaiting a second look. I like to look for some of my more subtle work to showcase. Photographing and showcasing icons is fun, but for me the real reward is in creating images of moments that may have gone unnoticed.

So as the seasons transition and from the endless opportunities of summer to the completion of the colorful displays of fall, it’s tempting to put the camera away for awhile and find other things to occupy one’s time. Amongst photographers this time of year is known as the ‘brown season’. Ironically, the more I look to photograph during the ‘brown season’ the more beauty and opportunities I find during mother natures demure transition.

Whoa, Bierstadt

One of the most colorful and dramatic sunrises I've been lucky to experience unfolds over a frozen Bierstadt Lake. Lenticular clouds formed east of Longs Peak and the rising sun lit the underbelly of the clouds in rainbow like fashion. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 24-105mm F4 IS
One of the most colorful and dramatic sunrises I’ve been lucky to experience unfolds over a frozen Bierstadt Lake. Lenticular clouds formed east of Longs Peak and the rising sun lit the underbelly of the clouds in rainbow like fashion. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 24-105mm F4 IS
What do you do when the scene unfolding before your camera is one of the most intense and colorful sunrises you’ve been lucky enough to witness?. Is it a good or bad dilemma to be faced with?. Is the scene believable?, will your clients think you just went a little to far with your interpretation of the scene in Photoshop? I’ve spent a lot of time in the field photographing some spectacular kaleidoscopes of color, but one in particular from last week takes the cake.

I could tell heading up to Rocky Mountain National Park that there was some great potential for a colorful sunrise setting up over the park. It had been a very windy but mild night. The high winds aloft formed beautiful Lenticular clouds that extended from the Continental Divide eastward over the Front Range but not far enough east so as to impede the light from the rising sun over the plains.

Sprague Lake was a tempting destination, as was Moraine Park for sunrise. The location of the clouds and sunrise would have made either of these a great choices. I really wanted to get out on the trails and into the forest after all the distractions and closures over the last few months and hike. So with that in mind, I decided that Bierstadt Lake would be a good destination.

Looking east over a frozen Bierstadt Lake provided this serene but awesome view of the sky over the eastern plains of Colorado. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 17mm TS-E F4 L
Looking east over a frozen Bierstadt Lake provided this serene but awesome view of the sky over the eastern plains of Colorado. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 17mm TS-E F4 L

I love hiking to and photographing from Bierstadt Lake. It’s been one of my favorite locations in Rocky Mountain National Park since I first visited Rocky in 1998. It was the experience of locations such as Bierstadt Lake that inspired me to become a landscape photographer. The lake is named for Albert Bierstadt, the famous nineteenth century landscape painter from whom I admire and gain inspiration from in my photography pursuits.

Bierstadt Lake holds one of the most impressive views of the continental divide in all of Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s view to the east is more serene and not as pronounced as that of Sprague Lake below. From atop the shelf like plateau Bierstadt Lake is sits on, the sky is all that can be viewed to the east. And although there are no mountains in view when looking east from Bierstadt Lake, the view of the open horizon and sky is impressive.

So after a short but enjoyable 1.3 mile hike up the Bierstadt Moraine to the lake, I setup my camera and watched sunrise unfold. It was the most intense and colorful sunrises I’ve photographed anywhere. Words and images fall short of capturing the intensity of the sunrise this particular morning other than to say it felt as if I had just walked into a scene from none other than one of Albert Bierstadt’s dramatic paintings.