It’s time to say farewell to 2012. It’s been a good and productive year for me personally. I was able to photograph many of locations on my ‘to do list’. I had great luck with weather and clouds and I ended up in the right spot more often than a spectator from afar.
The majority of my time and energy was spent photographing Rocky Mountain National Park. When I wasn’t photographing Rocky, I spent time photographing the open space properties in and around Boulder.
2013 is looking to be more of the same for my photography. I have quite a few projects in mind, but my energy and resources will be spent photographing Rocky Mountain National Park.
There’s just and endless amount of subjects and locations to photograph in Rocky. I plan to do my best in 2013 to continue scratching the surface to the unlimited potential Rocky holds for photography. So here’s looking to 2013, and all the potential she holds.
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.
Ok, I’ll admit it’s been somewhat slow around here. A perfect storm of sorts has come together, which has slowed me down a tad. The combination of the holidays, the Fern Lake Fire, and the lack of any real snow in the park has been a challenge.
It’s difficult enough to successfully photograph Rocky Mountain National Park in the best of conditions, but throw in a fire that has closed off access to one of the most beautiful parts of Rocky Mountain National Park, a lack of any new snow pack to cover the transitional browns, and the holidays adding their typical chaos and it’s been an interesting end to the year here in Colorado.
None of this has stopped me from getting out and photographing. It’s just kind of reshaped the areas and subjects I’ve been photographing. This has indeed been a positive development for me. I’ve been forced to think outside the box a little more, and look for images I might normally hike or drive right past.
The Fern Lake fire has closed off access to Bear Lake Road, and Old Man Winter has shut down Trail Ridge Road and now suddenly, Rocky Mountain National Park has gotten a lot smaller. Smaller is a relative term of course as there are still humungous areas open for photography, but even still I’ve had to be a little more creative in searching out opportunities.
But as stated in a previous blog entry, it’s been a good experience for sure. I’ve been able to spend time photographing areas that are usually lower on my priority list or overlooked completely. I’ve been concentrating on smaller subjects and details which has been a great exercise and changeup. Here’s to hoping things get back to normal in the park in 2013, until then I’ll just keep enjoying photographing areas and subjects I’ve neglected in the past.
I’ve been on a bit of a photography hiatus the last week or so. The combination of the Fern Lake fire closing most of the east side of Rocky Mountain National Park, and the lack of snow have contributed to my lethargy. If the weather predications hold, Rocky should be seeing some snow this weekend. Hopefully the much needed moisture will tamp down the Fern Creek fire and cloak the peaks in white.
As stated in last weeks post, I’ve been spending a good deal of time photographing the lower areas of Rocky. Prior to the Fern Creek fire blazing through Moraine Park, I had been spending a good deal of time photographing both Moraine Park and the Horseshoe Park area. It’s been a very productive and eye opening exercise for me.
Moraine Park and Horseshoe Park are both spectacular areas of Rocky Mountain National Park. They are each beautiful areas in their own right and deserve the appreciation they command. It can be easy however, to drive right through them on my way to other trailhead and destinations higher up in the park. Photographing Moraine and Horseshoe during the transitional shoulder season, has really opened up some new photographic opportunities that may have been ignored previously.
Many of my favorite locations in Rocky Mountain National Park are the alpine lakes at base of Rocky’s many beautiful granite peaks. Once the cold weather and snow start to settle in, these lakes will freeze over and become covered in snow. These locations are still beautiful cloaked in their winter attire, but photographing them while rewarding, can be challenging due to snow, wind, and cold.
Typically what I like to do when the higher elevations of Rocky begin to freeze over, is to settle down in some of the lower elevations of the park. Places like Moraine Park, and Horseshoe Park are likely to have less snow, and more flowing water even into late November.
Horseshoe and Moraine Park take on a very peaceful quietness to them this time of year. The crowds of people gathering to watch the Elk Rut have dispersed, and the legions of summer hikers turns to a trickle. The Moraine Park campground empties out of tents and RV’s and the overall pace in Rocky slows.
The grasses in the two parks move from golden to a more subdued brown, and the willows along the rivers drop their leaves only to have the red hued skeletons remaining. The Big Thompson and Fall River slow to a trickle. Bends in the rivers will freeze over, but water continues to flow downstream. Elk herds will gather in both locations, but with exception of an occasional bugle, the rut will have ended and the Bulls will again begin to congregate together.
Most would find this time of year to have the least appeal for photographers. After all, who wants to spend time photographing leafless trees, brown grasses and mange looking elk. My advice, take the time to explore these areas and enjoy the calm. Settle in and watch the sunrises explode with color as wave clouds setup over the Front Range. Enjoy the quietness of these areas when they are nearly free from visitors. Doing so will you allow you to truly appreciate these beautiful places.
Lighting makes or breaks an image. Working with the light and using it to your advantage is a part of what makes some photographers vision and imagery resonate more than others. Lighting is crucial to successful landscape photography.
Lighting for landscape photography can come in all shapes in form. Dramatic sunrise/sunset lighting is what comes to mind when most people think about dramatic lighting on the landscape. Even so, diffused light, reflected light, and light from sources other than the sun can be used to create beautiful imagery.
We’ve continue to have a very mild fall here in the Rocky Mountains. Daytime highs have often been in the sixties, and there has been very little snowfall. We need moisture more than most can imagine or we will be paying the piper next summer. One benefit the warmer weather has carried with it this fall, is stunning sunrises.
The warmer weather, and associated winds that come with warmer weather in the Rockies have allowed for beautiful lenticular or wave clouds to form along the Front Range and over Rocky Mountain National Park many mornings and evenings. Because of this we’ve been having no shortages of spectacular sunrises up in Rocky.
Combine our spectacular sunrises and cloud formations with the fact that most of the rivers located in the lower elevations have not yet completely frozen over, and there is still plenty to photograph even during Rocky’s brown season. Even so, lets keep our fingers crossed for some heavy snows and a return to a typical fall/winter season in Rocky soon.
Chasm Falls is a popular and heavily visited waterfall along Old Fall River Road during the summer months. Thousands of vehicles pass right by Chasm Falls during the busy summer months in Rocky Mountain National Park. Chasm is beautiful anytime of year, but hiking up to Chasm Falls once Old Fall River Road closes for the season is a real treat.
An off-season hike up Old Fall River Road to Chasm Falls will result in a completely opposite experience of visiting Chasm when Old Fall River Road is open during peak season. Most of the time you wont encounter another soul along your journey up to the falls. Hiking up above Endovalley in the stillness of a winter morning is an awesome experience.
For photographers, its also a great time of year to photograph Chasm Falls. There’s a short window of time before Chasm Falls freezes for the winter and is covered by snow. If your lucky enough to time it right, you can photograph Chasm Falls after snow has fallen, but prior to the falls freezing over.
The perfect conditions all fell into to place last week for me. Light snow was falling over Rocky Mountain National Park, and Chasm had yet to freeze. I had an intense but brief sunrise in Moraine Park and as the snowed picked up its pace, I decided to make the early morning trek up to Chasm Falls.
The hike up to Chasm paid off. I was able to capture the falls still running at a good clip. Evergreens and boulders were coated in fresh snow. Other than the sound of Fall River cascading through the chamber that makes up Chasm Falls, it was a serene and quiet morning. Nothing more than a perfect morning to photograph Chasm Falls
One of the worst feelings one can experience when out photographing the landscape is that feeling of having ‘just missed the shot’. It happens to all of us, and watching a once in a lifetime sunrise or sunset unfold in front you while your out of position for the shot can be disheartening and torturous.
The image of what could have been can leave you feeling regretful. That shot that could have been becomes burned into your memory and you’ll run through the fateful course of events over and over. Why did I set my alarm clock so late?, why did I hesitate on hiking to a particular viewpoint?, maybe I should have hustled a little more on the trail to makeup some time etc.
Living with regrets is not a particularly productive way to go through life or landscape photography. We cant go back in time, and we cant re-create once in a lifetime opportunities. The best thing we can do is try to be more prepared for ‘the shot’ the next time. The second, and most important thing we can do is appreciate our time in the field and in nature even if were in the process of botching the shot.
It was thirteen years ago today that my father, Thomas passed away at the age of sixty. Dad had turned sixty only two weeks prior, and his passing made for one of the most difficult days for my family and I. Thirteen years later, it’s still difficult to believe sometimes that my father is no longer here.
Time has healed much of the hurt and pain that losing my father has caused but at times such as today, some of it returns. On days like today, I find it’s best to remember all the great times and life lessons I learned from my father. It’s because of my father that I am able to spend mornings, like today in places like Rocky Mountain National Park.
Unfortunately, I was never able to spend anytime with my dad in Rocky Mountain National Park. It was with my dad however, that I first visited the state of Colorado. I had spent the summer of 1996 living in San Francisco with my cousin having just graduated from college. I was looking to land a job and fulfill my dream at the time of living in the city by the bay.
In actuality, I spent more time exploring and photographing around the bay area then I did looking for a job. Needless to say, I quickly depleted my funds and needed to return to New York to again work the job I had held through college. I had driven my Jeep Wrangler cross country by myself on the way out, but my dad agreed to fly out to San Francisco and keep me company on the ride back. I gladly accepted his offer because I did not have enough money at the time to pay for the gas to get back across the country.
My drive back east across the country is one of my most memorable times spent with my dad. Driving hours at a time across California, Nevada, and Utah in the summer heat and without any air conditioning in my Jeep made for some testy moments between father and son. Even so, we pushed on and entered the state of Colorado from the west.
Colorado was like and oasis in comparison to the brutally hot and dry climate of the Great Basin we had just travelled through. The evergreens and the cool high mountain passes were a welcome change from the rocks and heat. We spent three days in Colorado exploring and enjoying the mountains. Those three days in Colorado with my father sealed the deal for me. I was going back to New York, saving up so money and moving out to Boulder as soon as I could.
So even on somber days like today, I can look back and be thankful for the many things my father bestowed in me. My love of travel, photography, and Colorado are all rooted deeply with my dad and his desire to make sure we had every opportunity to do what we loved to do. I was never able to formally thank my father for the opportunities he gave me, but on mornings like today, I try my best. Thank you Dad.
A fresh layer of snow has fallen over Rocky Mountain National Park and the Estes Valley last week. Autumn is on it’s very last leg in Rocky, but we can look forward to snow capped mountains and peaks. The lines between fall and winter in Rocky are often blurred, with the seasons overlapping.
Photography this time of year is about capturing those subtle and not so subtle transitions occurring in Rocky Mountain National Park. Open water and lakes will begin to freeze over, and the grasses will move from golden to brown. This is probably the least ‘sexy’ time for photography in Rocky.
That being said, there are still plenty of hidden gems to photograph in the park. With the return of warmer weather this week, there should still be enough open water around to photograph reflections of the now snowy peaks, especially in the lower elevations. Rocky also has some of it’s most dramatic sunrises this time of year, so it’s a good time of year to scout new locations to take advantage of the light show in the sky.
I photographed the image above with the intention of using the lone tree and Deer Mountain as silhouettes against a very impressive dawn sky in Horseshoe Park. The off season here in Rocky, is a great time to experiment and find new locations and vantage points to work such as the one above. While some of the shooting in Rocky Mountain National Park may not be as glamorous as some of the summer and autumn opportunities, the ability to experiment be creative and capture unique imagery is endless