Tips For Photographing Rocky During The ‘Tweener Season’

Photographing Rocky Mountain National Park during the transitional season from winter to spring can be a frustrating experience. More often than not it will feel more like winter than spring in Rocky. Partially thawing streams make for a good subject even on cloudy and drab days. Here I was able to find a small area of Glacier Creek that had thawed enough to photograph water moving under and around the snowpack. Technical Details: Canon EOS 1Ds III, 24-70mm F4 IS L
Photographing Rocky Mountain National Park during the transitional season from winter to spring can be a frustrating experience. More often than not it will feel more like winter than spring in Rocky. Partially thawing streams make for a good subject even on cloudy and drab days. Here I was able to find a small area of Glacier Creek that had thawed enough to photograph water moving under and around the snowpack. Technical Details: Canon EOS 1Ds III, 24-70mm F4 IS L
With the calendar rolling past St. Patrick’s day spring is nearly here. Spring conjures up images of warmer weather, greening grass and chirping birds. While we can already see signs of spring beginning in the lower elevations of the Front Range, were entering another ‘tweener’ season in Rocky Mountain National Park that can lower ones motivation and cause photographers to find other ways to spend their time in the field.

While finding interesting subjects to photograph between seasons can be difficult, here are a few tips for keeping it fresh and interesting in between the spring melt off and summer in Rocky Mountain National Park.

1. Pay attention to thawing streams and lakes. Water will add a dimension and depth to your image. After a long cold winter, moving water can be hard to come by. By mid March the streams should be starting to thaw in areas which are exposed to the sun allowing for photographers to advantage of reflections or foreground subjects. Lakes may also allow for reflections or interesting subjects for leading lines. Don’t expect to find any of the lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park thawed an open this time of year. Check the inlets and outlets of lakes at various altitudes. Moving water will cause the inlets and outlets to thaw and run first. Use extreme caution this time of year when working around water and ice. Poor judgment and a misstep can cost you more than just your camera equipment.

2. Look for interesting skies at sunrise and sunset. This applies to photographing Rocky Mountain National Park anytime of year but I believe its even more applicable during the ‘tweener’ season. Dramatic lighting can turn a so-so landscape from blasé to spectacular easily. Dirty snow, leafless trees and partially frozen landscapes are quickly transformed into beautiful, vibrant scenes with dramatic and colorful skies above.

3. Continue to embrace your winter mojo. Why does one need to embrace winter when we are talking about landscape photography as we transition to spring?. Simple really, spring in Rocky Mountain National Park has lots of stops and starts. Spring in Rocky is much more likely to provide winter like conditions than those of the summer so it’s important to keep your mindset open to photographing in snowy conditions. Some of my best winter/snow images have been made during the spring season. March and April are some of our snowiest months so your certainly going to have the opportunity to photograph the landscape covered in white, so you might as well take advantage of it.

So while many have cabin fever setting in or are dreaming of heading to warmer locations south of Rocky Mountain National Park, the ‘tweener’ season still presents plenty of opportunities for photographers to make dynamic images in the park. Like always, keep and open mind, come prepared and most importantly make sure you get out in the field to create images.

Hold On

A beautiful winter sunrise unfolds over Glacier Gorge and Longs Peak. Snow has covered the pines as the first rays of light illuminate the sky above Longs Peak and Otis Peak. A few hours earlier, the entire sky was covered with clouds. The skies quickly began to clear at sunrise but enough clouds hung over Longs Peak and Glacier Gorge to compliment the fresh snow. Technical Details: Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III, 24-70mm F4 IS
A beautiful winter sunrise unfolds over Glacier Gorge and Longs Peak. Snow has covered the pines as the first rays of light illuminate the sky above Longs Peak and Otis Peak. A few hours earlier, the entire sky was covered with clouds. The skies quickly began to clear at sunrise but enough clouds hung over Longs Peak and Glacier Gorge to compliment the fresh snow. Technical Details: Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III, 24-70mm F4 IS
As landscape photographers we find ourselves constantly chasing both the light and the weather. These two ingredients are at the heart of what makes a successful, dynamic landscape image. The trick is of course attempting to take advantage of these conditions when it may be favorable to do so. That of course is much harder said then done. Like a golfer sinking a 40 foot birdie put on the eighteenth hole after an awful round of golf, nailing a shot in dynamic weather and light quickly makes us forget past failed attempts and has us searching again for that next image.

Weather is dynamic on the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. It’s constantly in flux, especially as we move towards spring. Weather changes happen quickly here in Colorado and in ways that can be both helpful to your photography or a detriment.

It’s not uncommon to have the skies clouded over and snow still falling only a few hours before sunrise, to then find the skies at sunrise cloudless and clear with only fresh snow on the pines and granite to attest to latest storm. While this is great for skiing, snowshoeing, and other outdoor activities it doesn’t jive well with the bad weather equals good photographs meme.

Many a time it’s a race to see if the clouds can hang on just long enough to add color to the skies above the peaks. Clouds add interest and bring an important element and dimension to an image, so whenever possible having clouds in the photograph is a benefit. But when one of our quick moving storms starts moving out the skies can clear in a very short period of time.

This was the case after our last storm. Snow fell at a good clip the day the before. Weather forecasts indicated that the snow that was falling hard on Friday, would indeed move out quickly with clear skies predicted for sunrise Saturday morning. Of course the weather forecasts interpretation of clear skies can be different than a photographers so there is a possibility that some of the clouds and fog from the storm could linger around the high peaks of Rocky Mountain National Park for sunrise.

When I left my house on Saturday morning on my way to Rocky the skies were completely clouded over. By the time I arrived at entrance to the park, the skies had started to clear considerably and there were now large breaks in the cloud cover with the stars shining above. After parking my vehicle at Bear Lake and throwing on snowshoes for the hike up towards Dream Lake, the skies had cleared even more that when I had arrived at the entrance. It was becoming obvious that the cloud were quickly on their way out and the race was going to be on to see if any would stick around long enough to make sunrise.

I hurried up the trail through the virgin powder towards Dream Lake, all the while watching the sky and clouds hoping they would hang on long enough. The conditions were perfect and a beautiful sunrise with colorful clouds over Longs Peak would be the icing on the cake.

By the time I reached the ridge just below Dream Lake which gives a commanding view of Glacier Gorge and Longs Peak there were only a few clouds still hanging over and around Longs Peak. Hold on is all I could think as I setup my camera and tripod. A few more minutes and the sun would be up. Hold on just long enough the clouds did making for a beautiful late winter scene over Rocky Mountain National Park and another great morning in Rocky.

Rinse And Repeat

Unsettled weather continued this week over Rocky Mountain National Park and the Front Range of Colorado. Even with our unsettled and snowy weather, signs of spring are slowly starting to show. Mill Creek has thawed enough to flow through these frozen and snow covered willows near Hollowell Park. Technical Details: Canon EOS 1Ds III, 70-300mm F4-5.6 L
Unsettled weather continued this week over Rocky Mountain National Park and the Front Range of Colorado. Even with our unsettled and snowy weather, signs of spring are slowly starting to show. Mill Creek has thawed enough to flow through these frozen and snow covered willows near Hollowell Park. Technical Details: Canon EOS 1Ds III, 70-300mm F4-5.6 L
Another winter storm, another weekend of interesting conditions here on the northern Front Range of Colorado. With our current weather pattern and the timing of storms hitting the state, winter is taking on a groundhog day like feel to it. Rinse and repeat is the order of the day with the current weather pattern. No complaints from me as the current setup is working out quite nicely when it comes to photography along the Front Range.

Snowy weather continued over Rocky Mountain National Park Friday night into Saturday night. It’s seems all it has been doing in Rocky for the last month or so is either snowing, or the wind is howling, or a combination of both has been occurring. Even so, it still sets of good opportunities for photography if you can find a window between the snow and heavy winds.

Cold air inversions have been commonplace the last month or so over Boulder. After a storm moves out, clouds and cold air remains over the plains and valley's. An expedition up Flagstaff Mountain gets one above the clouds for sunrise views like these. Technical Details: Canon EOS 1Ds III, 17mm TS-E F4
Cold air inversions have been commonplace the last month or so over Boulder. After a storm moves out, clouds and cold air remains over the plains and valley’s. An expedition up Flagstaff Mountain gets one above the clouds for sunrise views like these. Technical Details: Canon EOS 1Ds III, 17mm TS-E F4

As harsh as the conditions have been in Rocky Mountain National Park the last month or so, spring is definitely creeping into the air. Streams are starting to thaw in pockets, the birds are getting a little nosier each morning and every now again one can catch a whiff of that organic, earthen smell that tells you things are starting to thaw. Even the snow takes on a different quality as the temperatures increase slightly and the flakes grow larger with moisture.

As has been the pattern the last month or so. These storms that move over Colorado with moisture from the Pacific, pull down cold arctic air as they move through the state. As the storms have moved out, the cold air remains settled in the valley’s and low spots of the Front Range. This pattern has been perfect for allowing for cold air inversions over the lower valley’s and plains after the snow has moved out.

That being the case, an expedition up Flagstaff Mountain just west of Boulder has been the perfect spot for taking advantages of the inversion by getting up above the cold layer of air entrenched below. Having an inversion setup over the foothills west of Boulder allows for many images that one normally could not photograph. The cloud cover caused by the inversion covers the city like a blanket covering all the man made objects below and beneath the cloud cover.

So I’ll take the rinse and repeat aspect of the last few weeks. Sure I cant wait for summer to settle in, but the repetitive conditions have really made for some fun expeditions and allowed me to create images that ordinarily may not be possible. As for this weekends forecast?, stay tuned as it’s again looking snowy and unsettled.

No Aversion To The Inversion

Weather plays of huge role in the success of your landscape photography. Unique conditions such as an inversion can take locations that normally my not be optimal for landscape photography, and instead transform the landscape into something magical. From near the top of Flagstaff Mountain, and low hanging inversion caused c cloud layer to form, thus filling Boulder Canyon and the area over Lost Gulch with clouds at sunrise. Technical Details: Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III, 24-70mm F4 IS L
Weather plays of huge role in the success of your landscape photography. Unique conditions such as an inversion can take locations that normally my not be optimal for landscape photography, and instead transform the landscape into something magical. From near the top of Flagstaff Mountain, and low hanging inversion caused c cloud layer to form, thus filling Boulder Canyon and the area over Lost Gulch with clouds at sunrise. Technical Details: Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III, 24-70mm F4 IS L
One of my favorite weather events occurred over Boulder again this week. A cold air inversion settled over town on Saturday night after some light snow making for some great photography opportunities over Boulder at sunrise on Sunday morning.

For me, if I even think there is a remote chance that conditions might be right for an inversion I’m going to be up in the foothills trying to get above the cloud deck before sunrise. The factor in all of this of course is how high up does one need to go before they break on through the cloud deck.

Depending on the conditions, the cloud deck may only be 1000 or so feet above the ground. The cloud deck might also be 10,000 ft above the ground making it impossible to get above.

Typically I’ll be on the look out for the potential for an inversion when the following type of weather is occurring in the area. Rain or snow is forecast through the night. Weather reports indicate that the precipitation is supposed to cease and clear out before sunrise. Usually, I’ll just look at the predicted hourly conditions on one of the weather sites. If those hourly conditions show the precipitation ending and clearing conditions taking hold soon after the precipitation stops, I’ll make sure I’m ready to go in the morning.

Conditions that indicate clearing is going to occur quickly do not guarantee that low hanging clouds or an inversion will still be hanging around early in the morning however. Here in Colorado, I would say eighty percent of the time one is going to wake to find the skies indeed devoid of any cloud cover at all.

What I’ll do when I even think the conditions may cause the inversion to linger through the night and be around in the morning when the sun rises is to get up at least two hours before sunrise. I’ll walk the dog and while doing that scan the sky to assess the atmospheric conditions. It’s important to note that conditions can and do change rapidly. Numerous times I’ve walked the dog in completely clouded over conditions that had me pumped up and ready to go only to have crystal clear skies thirty minutes later when I get back to my house.

Looking east towards Realization Point, a lone tree stands above the cloudline peering into the abyss as sunrise paints the clouds in warm pastels. Technical Detail: Canon EOS 1Ds III, 70-300mm F4-5.6 IS L
Looking east towards Realization Point, a lone tree stands above the cloudline peering into the abyss as sunrise paints the clouds in warm pastels. Technical Detail: Canon EOS 1Ds III, 70-300mm F4-5.6 IS L

But when I go through my morning routine, if the clouds are still present and the conditions in the sky don’t appear to be clearing, then I know I have a decent shot of having some interesting conditions when the sun does crest the horizon.

So on Sunday morning things were looking pretty good when I headed out the door. Photographing an inversion has you crossing your fingers the entire time while you scan the sky every few minutes. On one hand you don’t want the clouds to dissipate before sunrise, and the other your hoping the clouds stick around but that you can get high enough up to get above them.

One of the best places to go when their is an inversion in town is to head up Flagstaff Road. Climbing the 2000 ft above town up Flagstaff Mountain gives you the best chance of getting above the clouds while out the same time being right smack dab in the middle of some of the most beautiful natural areas around Boulder. As I climbed past the three mile marker on Flagstaff, things were looking a little bleak. I did not have much more road to go and I was still not yet above the cloud cover. Finally, just above Realization Point, I spied the moon in the sky to the south of me and I was above the clouds and the inversion.

I hustled through the woods over to an area that overlooked Boulder Canyon and the Lost Gulch area. The clouds were only a hundred feet or so below me but I could see Sugarloaf Mountain and the ridge along Four Mile to the north. All at once high clouds above the low hanging fog started to turn pink and it was game on.

Luckily for me, the elements all came together and stayed together long enough for me to capture a beautiful sunrise over Lost Gulch. Images that would not have nearly same impact if not for the weather conditions present on Sunday morning.

15 Minutes Of Perfection

In photography quality of light is always more import the quantity of light. You only need brief moments of light combined with respites  in the wind to have a chance to capture the landscape in all its glory. The conditions did not look promising at all when I first arrived at Rocky Mountain National Park. Surprisingly the wind stopped and the color in the sky exploded over Otis, Hallet and Flattop Mountain. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 24-70mm F4 IS
In photography quality of light is always more import the quantity of light. You only need brief moments of light combined with respites in the wind to have a chance to capture the landscape in all its glory. The conditions did not look promising at all when I first arrived at Rocky Mountain National Park. Surprisingly the wind stopped and the color in the sky exploded over Otis, Hallet and Flattop Mountain. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 24-70mm F4 IS
Fans of 1980’s TV will recall with great affection the famous line Colonel John ‘Hannibal’ Smith used to spout near the end of each episode of the ‘A-Team’. While puffing away on his stogie, teeth clenched, having just fired off thousands of rounds of ammo, destroyed dozens of vehicles, and buildings all without causing any bodily harm or injury to his foe’s he would state ‘I love it when a plan comes together’. Oh to be as cool as George Peppard, or even more importantly just as prepared.

Some days, the photography gods smile down on you and you’ve got to love it when it feels like the plan has all come together for you. We spend hundreds of hours a year in the field searching for those timeless moments. So much so that some would argue our obsession tests the bounds of our mental health, making us feel much more like ‘Howling Mad’ Murdock than the confident character of Hannibal.

Winter seems more prone to test the bounds of one’s sanity and photography grit. Winter has its rewards for sure, but it can test one’s patience and leave them wondering why they even bothered to get up long before dawn to be in the field. Winter in Rocky Mountain National Park can go so far as to toy with one’s emotions and endurance. Violent winds, cold temperatures, snow, blowing snow, clouded over sunrises or cloudless mornings will put any photographer through the crucible if they spend enough time in Rocky during the winter season.

Most of the time my approach to photographing Rocky Mountain National Park in winter is to get out in the field preferably in a scenic location and hope for the best. There are just too many variables in play to simply check the weather forecast and assume those conditions are what you will find at 9000 ft or more above sea level.

Many times I arrive at Rocky and find the conditions much more severe than anticipated. I cant help but think to myself there is no way I’m coming away with any new images this day. I’ve learned the hard way not to listen to little voice inside my head tempting me not to leave the comfy confines of my vehicle. So what if it’s near white out conditions and the trees are nearly toppling over from the wind, there has to be something I can photograph.

The short but sweet lighting conditions helped paint Hallet Peak in stunning light while the winds raked over her summit. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 70-300mm F4-5.6 L
The short but sweet lighting conditions helped paint Hallet Peak in stunning light while the winds raked over her summit. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 70-300mm F4-5.6 L

Last week I had just such an experience. The winds were howling on the plains and as I climbed up through the foothills long before dawn they only strengthened in intensity. Snow and gravel pelted my windshield and my truck bounced around with each gust. I thought to myself in a sarcastic tone, this should be awesome.

I plodded along towards Rocky anyway. A bad day in the park is pretty much better than a good day anywhere else so I figured I would at least drive around and check the conditions.

There were clear skies to the east so there would at least be sun in the morning. When I arrived clouds and snow were being blown over the continental divide and all the high peaks were obscured by clouds. The wind was howling something fierce. I started driving up Trail Ridge Road towards Many Park’s Curve so that I could survey the conditions from a higher vantage point. As I was driving towards Many Park’s, dismayed at my chances of shooting this morning a funny thing happened. I caught a glimpse of Longs Peak. Surveying the continental divide, all the peaks were now in view and no longer obscured by clouds.

I stopped my truck and did a double take. 10 minutes ago when I drove through the parks entrance, there was no chance the conditions would let up and improve. Or so I had assumed. Amazingly, not only could I now see the high peaks, but the wind had almost completely stopped. I now had 40 minutes or so to find a location before the sun would rise.

I quickly turned around and headed up Bear Lake Road. Dream Lake might be nice but I would not have enough time to get up to Dream before sunrise. I settled on the small meadow just west of the Storm Pass trailhead. One gets a commanding view of the divide and the willows would provide some nice color along the bottom of the frame.

Sunrise turned out to be spectacular. One of the most colorful sunrises I have witnessed in Rocky. Amazingly the wind abated for 15 minutes or so at sunrise, contrary to what normally happens at sunrise. Finally the wind started picking up in intensity again and the clouds obscured the light. But those 15 minutes where more than enough to capture the beauty of the sunrise this morning.

Boulder Hoarfrost

It does not get anymore exciting than this for me. I love photographing when the weather is overcast, foggy or snowing. Hoarfrost is one of my favorite conditions to photograph the landscape in, but it is also very rare. I was lucky enough to be able to capitalize on just such conditions over Boulder this week. These two trees were covered with hoarfrost when I photographed them in the marshy wetlands just east of the Bobolink trailhead. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 70-200 F4 IS L
It does not get anymore exciting than this for me. I love photographing when the weather is overcast, foggy or snowing. Hoarfrost is one of my favorite conditions to photograph the landscape in, but it is also very rare. I was lucky enough to be able to capitalize on just such conditions over Boulder this week. These two trees were covered with hoarfrost when I photographed them in the marshy wetlands just east of the Bobolink trailhead. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 70-200 F4 IS L

The streak of interesting and turbulent weather in and around Boulder continued this week. While I’m counting the days down until summer, the weather conditions on the Front Range are certainly making for very enticing opportunities for winter photography. The combination of lots of snow and cold temperatures are certainly keeping everybody on their toes.

The transitioning weather brought with it another one of my favorite conditions to photograph in, hoarfrost. It’s a fairly rare occurrence for hoarfrost to form on the tree’s and grasses here in Boulder, but when it does occur it quickly transforms the landscape into something straight out of a dream.

Another of my favorite go to locations in and around Boulder is Flagstaff Mountain. This grove of Ponderosa Pines perched on top of Flagstaff Mountain are a favorite subject of mine, especially when frosted over. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 24-105mm F4 IS L
Another of my favorite go to locations in and around Boulder is Flagstaff Mountain. This grove of Ponderosa Pines perched on top of Flagstaff Mountain are a favorite subject of mine, especially when frosted over. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 24-105mm F4 IS L

Hoarfrost occurs when the relative humidity of the air is greater than 100%. Combine this heavily saturated air with cold temperatures and objects such as trees and grasses below freezing and hoarfrost will form on branches, leaves and blades of grasses coating everything a pristine covering of white ice.

Hoarfrost can make even mundane, overlooked locations shine. The fog encompassing the landscape makes the white tree’s and grasses stand out like ghosts. The fog also helps to conceal and cover over signs of man that may have normally acted as a distraction to the image.

The tree’s in the marshy wetlands just east of the Bobolink trailhead cried out to be photographed while covered in the white frosting as did the Ponderosa Pines on Flagstaff Mountain. Hoarfrost is both rare and fleeting. It only takes a short period of sun or warming temperatures and it’s gone. So when the landscape is covered with hoarfrost, enjoy the beauty but have your camera at the ready.

Bad Weather = Great Photographs

Weather is the most important factor in landscape photography. Dramatic conditions improve ones chances for dramatic imagery. A cold air inversion over Boulder setup a dramatic sunrise over the Flatiron formations. Clouds hide the eastern plains of Colorado while the trees and mountains glow in the pre-dawn light. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 24-70mm F4 IS L
Weather is the most important factor in landscape photography. Dramatic conditions improve ones chances for dramatic imagery. A cold air inversion over Boulder setup a dramatic sunrise over the Flatiron formations. Clouds hide the eastern plains of Colorado while the trees and mountains glow in the pre-dawn light. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 24-70mm F4 IS L

The weather around here started changing in a big way last Monday. While January ended up being the third snowiest month on record for the Boulder area, we had a good stretch of warm days and cloudless skies. Great weather for just about everything except landscape photography. But as January transitioned into February, the conditions along the Front Range became more unsettled. In other words, unsettled weather is just what I had been hoping for.

I spent the better part of last week splitting my time between Rocky Mountain National Park and the Boulder area. Both locations are favorite of mine and because I photograph in these areas so often I have a pretty good sense of where to be to optimize my chances of capturing dramatic imagery in conditions favorable for landscape photography.

Prior to the change in the weather last week we either had cloudy morning with no breaks in the sun, or clear bluebird skies with no clouds. That whipsawed pretty quickly last week with cold temperatures and a couple of weather fronts moving through the state.

On Saturday, the snow and inversion waffled around 7500 ft or so moving above and below the town of Estes Park. Here the Twin Sisters peak their head above the clouds as the early morning sky lights up over Rocky Mountain National Park. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 70-300mm F4-5.6 IS L
On Saturday, the snow and inversion waffled around 7500 ft or so moving above and below the town of Estes Park. Here the Twin Sisters peak their head above the clouds as the early morning sky lights up over Rocky Mountain National Park. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 70-300mm F4-5.6 IS L

The cool temperatures and upsloping winds managed to form a nice inversion on both Saturday and Sunday morning. Saturday the inversion and cloud line sat at about 7500 ft above sea level which meant the eastern slopes of Rocky Mountain National Park were in prime position to potentially yield dramatic conditions of fog and clouds at sunrise. By Sunday morning, the inversion had moved down to around 6000 ft or so meaning the area around Boulder was now the most promising area to photograph.

There was no way I was going to miss sunrise on Saturday and Sunday with some of my favorite weather conditions prevailing over Rocky Mountain National Park and the Boulder area. As is always the case when photographing in these conditions, one has to be ready to move quickly and be prepared to find differing locations to accommodate the conditions and the lighting. There is also a pretty good chance you will just end up getting skunked by the conditions. Staying at home of course will guarantee you of that outcome.

So after a few weeks of less than stellar sunrises and mild and clear weather the conditions greatly improved for creating images. As the saying goes amongst photographers, bad weather equals great photographs.

Snow Day

On snowy days in the middle of winter it's likely that you will find me trouncing around Flagstaff Mountain just west of downtown Boulder. It's a favorite location of mine when I need to break the monotony of winter and find inspiration close to home. Wind swept Ponderosa Pines cling to the rock flanks of Flagstaff Mountain which makes for interesting photography, especially in snow. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 70-200mm F4 IS L
On snowy days in the middle of winter it’s likely that you will find me trouncing around Flagstaff Mountain just west of downtown Boulder. It’s a favorite location of mine when I need to break the monotony of winter and find inspiration close to home. Wind swept Ponderosa Pines cling to the rock flanks of Flagstaff Mountain which makes for interesting photography, especially in snow. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 70-200mm F4 IS L
Sometimes all you can do between photography stints is sit and wait. Sit and wait for the weather to break or change or do something that will allow for differing conditions other than pure blue skies. I know complaining about a stretch of clear blue skies and warm days is not going to garner any sympathy from the peanut gallery, but somebody has to be contrarian.

The weather changed and snow finally filtered down from the skies on Monday over Boulder and the Front Range. The Flatirons and foothills surrounding town were covered in a beautiful coat of white fluffy snow. I could finally get out and play in the snow so to speak.

On my way up Flagstaff Mountain I made a stop at Chautauqua Park. In the fog and heavy snow the Flatirons looked pristine. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 70-200mm F4 IS L
On my way up Flagstaff Mountain I made a stop at Chautauqua Park. In the fog and heavy snow the Flatirons looked pristine. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 70-200mm F4 IS L

One of my favorite locations in town on snowy days like this is Flagstaff Mountain. You’ve got Chautauqua Park and the Flatirons right below, an on Flagstaff Mountain itself you have lots of interesting subjects that work well on snowy days.

Flagstaff Mountain has its share of wind swept and contorted tree’s along with red rocks and boulders so popular with the areas mountain climbing community. I find the area around Flagstaff Mountain to be a great place to photograph when I need a little motivation and inspiration close to home. Snow days on Flagstaff certainly don’t disappoint, and during the longer winter months it’s a location I cant get enough of.

Alone And Single

Days like these keep me dreaming of summer. While I love photographing winter conditions in Rocky Mountain National Park, some warm weather, sun and longer days has me dreaming of summer in the park. This particular day was a cold, windy and snow one in Moraine Park. This lone Ponderosa Pine is likely familiar to most visitors to RMNP. It's resides a hundred yards or so from Bear Lake Road and keeps acts as a sentinel over Moraine Park. Alone, this Ponderosa pine keeps a watchful eye over the mountains, elk,deer and coyote that call this valley home. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 70-300mm F4-5.6 L
Days like these keep me dreaming of summer. While I love photographing winter conditions in Rocky Mountain National Park, some warm weather, sun and longer days has me dreaming of summer in the park. This particular day was a cold, windy and snow one in Moraine Park. This lone Ponderosa Pine is likely familiar to most visitors to RMNP. It’s resides a hundred yards or so from Bear Lake Road and keeps acts as a sentinel over Moraine Park. Alone, this Ponderosa pine keeps a watchful eye over the mountains, elk,deer and coyote that call this valley home. Technical Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 70-300mm F4-5.6 L

It’s been a slow week around here for me. The torrent of winds and blowing snow that had been raking over Rocky Mountain National Park the last few weeks has subsided. It’s been replaced with crystal clear blue skies, warmer temperatures and breezy conditions. These are great conditions for any outdoor activities like snowshoeing or hiking but somewhat blasé when it comes to attempts to create dramatic photographs.

While the weather has been very nice here on the Front Range the last few days, it’s managed to ignite a bit of cabin fever. Of course warm weather and sun should have the opposite effect of cabin fever, but the warmth, sun and ever lengthening days have me yearning for summer in Rocky Mountain National Park. Summer and the big thaw will be here in a flash. Until then I’ll leave you with this image of wintery day in Moraine Park a few weeks back.

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.