Check Your Blind Spot

This morning in Rocky did not break exactly the way I thought it wood. I arrived hoping to photograph freshly fallen snow on the landscape but instead found most of the roads in Rocky Mountain National Park were closed. I had to make due with limited access and ended up photographing these two trees along the side of the road. I've passed these two trees thousands of times before and never given them any thought. But conditions and access forced me to take a second  look and find beauty in limitation. Technical Details: Nikon D810, Nikkor 70-200mm F4 AF ED VR
This morning in Rocky did not break exactly the way I thought it wood. I arrived hoping to photograph freshly fallen snow on the landscape but instead found most of the roads in Rocky Mountain National Park were closed. I had to make due with limited access and ended up photographing these two trees along the side of the road. I’ve passed these two trees thousands of times before and never given them any thought. But conditions and access forced me to take a second look and find beauty in limitation. Technical Details: Nikon D810, Nikkor 70-200mm F4 AF ED VR

Photography for me is constantly evolving process. Technologies change, equipment change and subjects change. Personally, I find the longer I photograph the more refined my vision has become. After years of trial and error you begin to think you have a good idea of what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to creating images. Overall, I believe this progression and refinement is a positive development in one course as a photographer. Having a good idea of what kind of images you want to create and understanding what works and does not work for your particular style is evolutionary, but it comes with a catch. Whats the catch?, blind spots.

Discernment works well until it doesn’t. Being particular and deliberate in your compositions and locations are great as long as you make sure that you are not ignoring and closing your mind off to less seen compositions or subjects that may also help to improve your creative style. There is fine line between being discerning or ignoring potential.

I found myself guilty of this sin last week while out photographing Rocky. Snow had fallen the night before I headed up to the park hoping to capture snow capped peaks and snow covered pines. Like most photographers, I check the weather, study the predictive infra-red satellite maps all in an attempt to anticipate conditions in the field the next morning. I’ve written many a time how difficult photographing classic winter conditions in Rocky Mountain National Park can be, but this morning looked like one that might hold some potential.

Estes Park had received over a foot of snow in the past 24 hrs and Rocky Mountain National Park had even more snow, especially in the higher elevations. I was feeling pretty confident when I arrived at the Beaver Meadows Entrance station to Rocky in the predawn hours. As I headed up the road into the park I could see from the tracks in the snow that an NPS snowplow had already made its way up the road and into the park.

As some visitors to Rocky might be aware, they don’t typically plow the roads in Rocky Mountain National Park between 7:00 PM and 7:00 AM so the appearance of a plow this early appeared to be a positive development. While I have a 4 wheel drive vehicle and am confident driving in winter conditions and unplowed roads, the frequent winds in Rocky can turn that foot of snow on the road to a 4 ft drift all the while looking fairly benign through the headlights of a vehicle at 5:00 AM. I head up to Rocky in the winter to photograph, not spend hours trying to dig my vehicle out of a snow drift at 5:00 AM so I was happy to see a plow was already out working.

As I made my way past Bear Lake Road I could see the plow had turned left and headed up that way. The plow had closed Bear Lake Road so access to the entire portion of the park was not an option now. Not a big deal I thought to myself, I would just head up Trail Ridge Road and photograph from there. While I blasted through a couple of pretty good sized drifts cutting the first tracks on the road that morning, I arrived at Deer Ridge Jct. to find the Park Service has closed Trail Ridge Road up to Hidden Valley and Many Parks Curve. A little bit of panic started to set in. I now had only a very small portion of Rocky that I would be able to photograph and furthermore as so often is the case the high peaks were shrouded in clouds.

I was beginning to feel a little sorry for myself at this point. I had drive up to Rocky on snow covered mountain roads early in the morning anticipating beautiful winter landscapes only to find I may come away with very little to photograph. I parked in one of the roadside pull-offs and watched as some nice color began to form in the skies to the east of Rocky in anticipation for sunrise.

I might not have a lot of options and while conditions where not exactly how I had anticipated them being, I was now determined to find something to photograph. I thought to myself that ‘any photographer worth his salt could find something to photograph on this beautiful morning’. I grabbed my backpack, got out of my truck and started heading down the road towards a grouping of trees. I figured there has to be something to photograph here and at the minimum the skies are going to be spectacular.

Trudging around in the deep snow I kept looking for a composition of trees and sky that would work. I was getting frustrated when I started looking at two small pine trees located right off the road. I’ve driven by these two pines thousands of times and never given them a second look as they are right off the road and for the most part are unremarkable in appearance.

This morning I had few other options and I was determined to find something to photograph. I set up my tripod on the unplowed road and watched as the sky turned red and orange behind these two pines. A snow squall moved past and as I tripped the shutter on my camera I began to see some potential in the composition and landscape covered with fresh snow.

I had driven by these two trees so many times and never considered photographing them. In my mind the location was pedestrian and there wasn’t much reason to stop and survey the location in the past. Because of the conditions and lack of access to other locations in Rocky, I had to make due with what I was given and not what I though fit my style or preconceived notions for this morning. Being stuck in this location forced me to take inventory of the surroundings and more importantly check your blind spot.

First Of 2017

In what seemed like a long time coming I was finally able to capture my first images of 2017 from Rocky Mountain National Park. With other distractions out of the way, conditions unfolded nicely for a colorful sunrise after a snowy week in the park.   Details: Nikon D810, Nikkor 24-70mm F2.8 AF ED
In what seemed like a long time coming I was finally able to capture my first images of 2017 from Rocky Mountain National Park. With other distractions out of the way, conditions unfolded nicely for a colorful sunrise after a snowy week in the park. Details: Nikon D810, Nikkor 24-70mm F2.8 AF ED

With the 2016 in the rear view mirror and a new start to 2017 just underway, it was about time that I photographed Rocky Mountain National Park for the first time in the new year. With holiday parties and family festivities over, the time was right to get out and start creating some new images for 2017.

Holiday or not, the last month in Rocky Mountain National Park has been a challenge for photographers. Photographing Rocky Mountain National Park during the winter months is always a challenge, but this past December seemed to be particularly challenging. Clear mornings and lots of windy days had made it less than ideal. The month started off very dry and once the snow did start to fall, the storms quickly moved out leaving only high winds and snowless trees behind.

As is the case with both photographing Rocky and photography in general the key when one finds themselves in a rut or at the short end of the stick photographically speaking is to just keep heading out and photographing. Eventually the law of averages will prevail and perseverance will pay off.

Last week I headed up to the park on a day that looked like it might be ok for images at sunrise. The forecast showed there could be some clouds around but overall it also looked as if the chances to walk away with no new images would be just as likely. It had snowed a day before so I figured at least the high peaks of RMNP would look good with fresh snow even if most of the snow had melted and blown from the pine bows in the lower elevations.

As I waited for the sun to rise, conditions were looking less than promising for a dramatic sunrise. It appeared the skies over the continental divide were clear and only a small lenticular cloud had formed just east of the Estes Cone and Lily Mountain. I was going to capture my first images of 2017 regardless and as I setup my camera equipment as dawn was nearing I began to detect the slightest hint of a pink hue in the skies to the south of Rocky.

Thin high clouds were present in the skies and as the sun was rising a beautiful pink glow over the mountains of Rocky Mountain National Park was forming. With fresh snow on the peaks and a beautiful pink hue in the skies my first image of Rocky Mountain National Park for the new year shaped up nicely. All things considered I was quite pleased I decided to head on out to photograph this particular morning as opposed to watching this as a spectator from another location (namely my desk).

Welcome 2017!

The last sunrise of 2016 was a colorful one over the Mummy Range of Rocky Mountain National Park. While most of the skies over Rocky this windy morning were cloudless, a nice set of clouds clung to the top of Ypsilon Mountain adding some nice warmth to the cool morning. I'm looking forward to new pursuits and images in 2017 after a great 2016. Technical Details: Nikon D810,Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM C
The last sunrise of 2016 was a colorful one over the Mummy Range of Rocky Mountain National Park. While most of the skies over Rocky this windy morning were cloudless, a nice set of clouds clung to the top of Ypsilon Mountain adding some nice warmth to the cool morning. I’m looking forward to new pursuits and images in 2017 after a great 2016. Technical Details: Nikon D810,Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM C

Welcome to 2017!. 2016 seemed to just zoom right on past and its hard to believe another year is in the history books. Each year as we pass from one year to the next it’s fun to reflect on the previous year while looking forward to what the New Year will bring.

Almost like clockwork each year, the holidays, shorter days and colder weather slow some of my photography pursuits down and throw me off routine. People who know me well know that I’m a creature of habit and my routines keep me grounded, focused and motivated. I like socializing and sipping a little eggnog as much as the next guy but after a month of festivities, parties and interruptions to my normal daily routines, I’m ready to get back on the horse and start moving forward again.

Photographically speaking 2016 was a very productive year for me. I was able to spend a lot of time in the field photographing new locations in Rocky Mountain National Park and adding to portfolio of images. Furthermore, I had a great season guiding photography clients to all corners of Rocky Mountain National Park and I’m already looking forward to guiding clients in the field again in 2017.

I feeling refreshed and renewed. I have lots of plans for 2017 and cant wait to get out in the field crafting new images to fill my 2017 folders with. While it’s been very windy and mostly mild in Rocky Mountain National Park the last month, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we will have favorable winter conditions over the next few months. Cheers and here’s and to wishing you a happy and successful 2017.

Choosing Sides

Trail Ridge Road officially closed on November 18th for the 2016 season. It was a great run that we had and it was a treat having Trail Ridge Road stay open so late into the season. It was this last snowstorm that descended over Rocky Mountain National Park last week that officially put an end to through traffic along RMNP's most iconic roadway. Here the sun rises behind Deer Mountain and the sky lights up over Horseshoe Park and Fall River after a day of snowfall in Rocky. Technical Details: Nikon D810, Nikkor 14-24mm F2.8 AF ED
Trail Ridge Road officially closed on November 18th for the 2016 season. It was a great run that we had and it was a treat having Trail Ridge Road stay open so late into the season. It was this last snowstorm that descended over Rocky Mountain National Park last week that officially put an end to through traffic along RMNP’s most iconic roadway. Here the sun rises behind Deer Mountain and the sky lights up over Horseshoe Park and Fall River after a day of snowfall in Rocky. Technical Details: Nikon D810, Nikkor 14-24mm F2.8 AF ED

What has been an amazing run of mild weather has finally come to an abrupt end. Note November 18th, 2016 as the official closing date to Trail Ridge Road for the season(Many Parks on the east side and the Colorado River TH on the west side). This is the latest Trail Ridge Road has stayed open since I’ve been photographing Rocky Mountain National Park starting in 1998. The latest Trail Ridge Road has remained open was December 2nd, 1933 with it’s average closing date being October 23rd.

With Trail Ridge Road remaining open so late into the season, we could access many area of Rocky that during a typical year require a much more intensive travel route or cross country skis and an extremely high tolerance for snow, wind and cold. Now when visiting or photographing Rocky Mountain National Park we have to pick sides so to speak. You can travel to Estes Park and the east side of Rocky, or head over to Grand Lake and the west side of Rocky but your going to have to wait until late May before traveling the 50 miles between the two towns again on Trail Ridge.

The vast majority of photographers are going to end up on the east side of Rocky because access is just that much easier for most of us who reside in or near the Denver metro area. A few of us will make trips over to the west side of Rocky but we wont have nearly the amount of easy access that we enjoy during the summer.

Which ever side you end up choosing enjoy the start of the winter season in Rocky. We need the moisture and snow not only to reduce fire danger but also to lay the groundwork for carpets of alpine sunflowers, flowing streams and waterfalls and green and lush hillsides come summer. There is still plenty to photograph on both the east and west sides of RMNP and as I always like to say the worse the weather is the more interesting it becomes for photographers. I’m already looking forward to that first ride over Trail Ridge Road in the spring of 2017.

Shouldering The Season

It's that time of year again in Rocky Mountain National  Park. Known as the 'shoulder season' the period between fall and winter is often ignored by photographers. With our mild autumn its still a great time to get out and photograph Rocky Mountain National Park. I was able to photograph this sunrise from the Gore Range overlook along Trail Ridge Road on October 27th of this year. Last year at this time, Trail Ridge Road was closed and was already covered with a good amount of snow. Technical Details: Nikon D810, Nikkor 24-70mm F2.8 ED AF
It’s that time of year again in Rocky Mountain National Park. Known as the ‘shoulder season’ the period between fall and winter is often ignored by photographers. With our mild autumn its still a great time to get out and photograph Rocky Mountain National Park. I was able to photograph this sunrise from the Gore Range overlook along Trail Ridge Road on October 27th of this year. Last year at this time, Trail Ridge Road was closed and was already covered with a good amount of snow. Technical Details: Nikon D810, Nikkor 24-70mm F2.8 ED AF

It’s a good time to check in and take inventory as we move closer to wrapping up 2016. For many photographers its a time to stash away the camera gear, revisit images and files made over the course of the summer and fall and start dreaming of next years journeys. As the autumn season draws to a close and summer begins to feel like a distant memory it’s easy to lose some motivation and move onto things other than landscape photography.

After some reflection on the speed at which summer and fall grace us with their beauty, I like to embrace this time of year and enjoy it for what it is. Some call it the ‘brown season’, others refer to it as ‘shoulder season’ while some just think of it as the end of the year.

I find that lowered expectations this time of year help me to relax in the field and enjoy the experiences for what they are. Unquestionably access to some of my favorite locations in Rocky Mountain National Park becomes more difficult this time of year, and weather conditions such as snow and wind can make photography challenging I find the quality of light on the landscape to be spectacular.

Furthermore I also believe that some our most colorful and dramatic sunrises and sunsets tend to occur this time of year. The landscape maybe turning brown but the skies will often be ablaze as the sun rises and sets. Because of these colorful sunrise and sunsets I like to refer to this time of year in Rocky as ‘Neon’ season.

This end of the autumn season here in Rocky Mountain National Park is shaping to be a bit of an anomaly as well. As I write this Trail Ridge Road is still open which is on average later than it would typically be. While Trail Ridge is often subject to nightly closings, we have had a very mild fall and only minimal amounts of snow on the mountains it has remained open to this point. While I expect that this pleasant and dry weather will abruptly end at some point in the near future, many locations in Rocky are still snow free, unfrozen and easily accessible.

In other words while it may be ‘shoulder season’ in Rocky Mountain National Park, I would recommend photographers ‘shoulder’ their camera bags and backpacks and avoid putting the finishing touches on their 2016 portfolios just yet.

Little Bit Of Fall Left

Even though the autumn season in Rocky Mountain National Park is quickly coming to a conclusion. There are still a few areas in the lower elevation of Rocky Mountain National Park where one can capture images of the fall season. These narrowleaf cottonwood trees in Moraine Park looked stunning as first light illuminated a snow covered Longs Peak yesterday morning. The aspen trees just in front of the golden cottonwoods are just starting to change from  green to yellow. Technical Details: Nikon D810, Nikkor 24-70mm F2.8 ED AF lens
Even though the autumn season in Rocky Mountain National Park is quickly coming to a conclusion. There are still a few areas in the lower elevation of Rocky Mountain National Park where one can capture images of the fall season. These narrowleaf cottonwood trees in Moraine Park looked stunning as first light illuminated a snow covered Longs Peak yesterday morning. The aspen trees just in front of the golden cottonwoods are just starting to change from green to yellow. Technical Details: Nikon D810, Nikkor 24-70mm F2.8 ED AF lens
Autumn always seems to come to end in Rocky Mountain National Park to quickly. While its a wonderful time of year in the park, photographing the fall season is a challenge. Photographers are at the mercy of the weather and trying to be in the right place at the right time always mixes preparedness with a little bit of luck and maybe a dash of serendipity.

The coming crescendo of the autumn season in Rocky Mountain National Park will be met with satisfaction and enjoyment of the season, but also a little bit of sadness as we watch the landscape begin its transformation from the brilliant colors of autumn moving towards its long winter slumber. It’s a both a humbling and somewhat frightening experience to watch winters grip removed by the growth and warmth of spring and summer only to see it wiped away in such a short amount of time. Though I wont say I appreciate the coming of winter and the end of fall, it does allow one sometime to recharge and reflect on the beauty of the past season.

So while the fall season in Rocky Mountain National Park is quickly moving towards and end, there are still some opportunities to photograph the last hold outs of autumn. As of this writing there are still a few stands of aspens in the lower elevations of Rocky Mountain National Park that have some color. Moraine Park, a few areas around Upper and Lower Beaver Meadows as well as Horseshoe Park can still yield beautiful fall photographs. Higher elevations such as the Bierstadt Moraine and the Boulder Brook area are now far past peak.

Dont give up quite yet on fall in Rocky Mountain National Park. There are still a few areas that can yield some nice autumn images over the next week or so in the park. Enjoy the last vestiges of fall while they are still able to be enjoyed.

RMNP Fall Color Update

Fall color season is underway in Rocky Mountain National Park with some of Rock's aspen trees starting to turn golden in ernest. I photographed this grove of fall aspens just above Bear Lake yesterday. There are still only small pockets of fall color to be found in RMNP right now but look for autumn color to being to occur more rapidly now as we move through September. Technical Details: Nikon D810, Nikkor 16-35mm F4 AF VR ED
Fall color season is underway in Rocky Mountain National Park with some of Rock’s aspen trees starting to turn golden in ernest. I photographed this grove of fall aspens just above Bear Lake yesterday. There are still only small pockets of fall color to be found in RMNP right now but look for autumn color to being to occur more rapidly now as we move through September. Technical Details: Nikon D810, Nikkor 16-35mm F4 AF VR ED

A quick update on fall color change in Rocky Mountain National Park as we head into the weekend. During a typical season one can find fall color in different locations of Rocky Mountain National Park from late August through late October depending on weather and wind. The changes typically start at the higher elevations of the park with the tundra grasses changing over from green to brown and red, followed by some of the small ground cover in different locations of the park.

Aspen tree’s which is what most people and photographers are interested in when it comes to fall color in Rocky Mountain National Park will have a few outliers here in there which begin to change in August but the first real significant signs of fall color amongst the aspens of Rocky typically happens as we move into the second week of September.

During this second week of September, aspen trees will start turning in ernest in locations around Bear Lake, Glacier Gorge as well as some of the groves on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park near Grand Lake. As the weeks progress, locations such as the Bierstadt Moraine will peak concluding with lower elevations like Moraine Park, Beaver Meadows and portions of Horseshoe Park.

As of today, there is noticeable change occurring in and around Bear Lake. The aspens on the hillside above Bear Lake are still probably a week or so out from peak. That being said, some of the aspens above Bear Lake along the Flattop Mountain TH/Fern Lake TH have turned. Some areas near the Glacier Knob’s are at peak but overall there is still a lot of green trees.

I also visited the Lake Helene area yesterday with a photography tour client and only small portions of the smaller brush surrounding the lake shore had turned. It’s probably another 5 days or so before the brush around Lake Helene peaks.

Overall there is now perceptible color changes occurring in Rocky Mountain National Park. As a rough estimate I would guess we have about 15-20% color change occurring with the majority of it occurring at elevations over 9000 ft. Photographers can certainly find color to photograph now in Rocky but for the most part it will be more intimate scenes as the large landscape type views are still lacking when it comes to large amounts of color change.

A Little More Change

The date on the calendar says August 26th, but the conditions in Rocky Mountain National Park on this morning seems more like those found in winter. I arrived in RMNP this morning to find the landscape above 11,500 ft covered with a nice dusting of fresh snow. Longs Peak looked great covered in snow as seen in this view from Trail Ridge Road and the Rock Cut. Technical Details: Nikon D810,Sigma150-600mm 5-6.3 DG HSM OS C lens
The date on the calendar says August 26th, but the conditions in Rocky Mountain National Park on this morning seems more like those found in winter. I arrived in RMNP this morning to find the landscape above 11,500 ft covered with a nice dusting of fresh snow. Longs Peak looked great covered in snow as seen in this view from Trail Ridge Road and the Rock Cut. Technical Details: Nikon D810,Sigma150-600mm 5-6.3 DG HSM OS C lens

No sooner had I finished writing and posting my previous blog post about current conditions in Rocky Mountain National Park and the subtle changes in the seasons before the weather in RMNP does what it’s famous for, change dramatically again.

True to form, not only are there signs of autumns impending arrival, but the weather in Rocky Mountain National Park on Friday morning decided to remind us that not only is fall right around the corner, but so is winter. While rain had fallen overnight in most elevations of RMNP on Thursday night, it was cold enough to put a light but healthy dusting of fresh snow on the landscape above 11,500 ft.

I drove up Trail Ridge Road early Friday morning looking to see if there would be any breaks in the cloud cover that morning for sunrise. Approaching the Forest Canyon overlook I could see it was more than just droplets of dew on the grasses and tundra and that there was a light dusting of snow right near timberline. Taking a moment to take a good look at Longs Peak in the predawn light, I could see it was also coated in fresh snow. While its a little early, snow in late August on the high peaks is fairly common. Heck it makes for some nice photographs as well so I’m certainly not complaining, I mean whats better than photographing 3 seasons all in the course of a couple of days?

So lets recap the current conditions in Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s still summer. Most of the park is still green, lakes are free of ice and trails are clean and clear. Signs of autumn have started to rear their head in the nooks and crannies of RMNP. A few aspen trees here and there are showing some color and some of the smaller ground foliage has turned red and orange. Lastly, even though it August, we can and do get occasional snow events covering the summer landscape with a winter like cloak.

Little Signs Of Autumn

The summer season in Rocky Mountain National Park always comes and go much too fast for comfort. Small signs of fall can be found already in RMNP if you look for them. A heavy frost covered the grasses of the Kawuneeche Valley this morning and these small frost covered plants were already displaying their autumn colors. Technical Details: Nikon D810, Nikkor 105mm Micro ED AF VR
The summer season in Rocky Mountain National Park always comes and go much too fast for comfort. Small signs of fall can be found already in RMNP if you look for them. A heavy frost covered the grasses of the Kawuneeche Valley this morning and these small frost covered plants were already displaying their autumn colors. Technical Details: Nikon D810, Nikkor 105mm Micro ED AF VR
Changes are starting to take place in Rocky Mountain National Park as they always do towards the backend of summer. Summer never seems to stick around as long as one would like and as soon as summer is upon us here in Rocky Mountain National Park, it seems like it’s back on its way out. It’s a conflicted period for me as on one hand while I love photographing the summer season in Rocky, Fall narrowly pulls ahead of summer as my favorite time to photograph RMNP.

It’s still summer and it’s still a bit on the early side (though not that early) to be talking about fall color conditions in Rocky Mountain National Park. With that said and keen observer will already notice that impending signs of autumn have begun to settle into the park.

The tundra grasses above timberline have turned brown and red high on the mountainsides, Bull Elk have shed their velvet and the bulls are starting to collect harems and bellow that beautiful and haunting bugle. Some of the aspen trees which typically turn golden yellow early in the season are showing yellow leaves. Lastly heavy frost has coated the meadows of Rocky Mountain National Park and some of the smaller deciduous ground cover have started to display their intense autumn colors.

On the west side of RMNP this morning fog drifted through the Kawuneeche Valley and a heavy frost covered the grasses of the Kawuneeche. Taking a minute to study the frozen grasses in the meadow I found not only the remnants of summer in the form of some frozen wildflowers, but also some beautiful reds, orange and yellow brush on full display. While there is no need to panic and things are very much on schedule, when in Rocky, take a minute to inspect the hidden and oft overlooked and you will be amazed at the autumn beauty you can already find.

One last note: I still have a few opening for photography tours in Rocky Mountain National Park during the end of September into early October. Availability is quickly filling up and if you think you would like to book a tour date it would be a good idea to do so soon.

After The Icons

Sunrise over Big Meadows on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park. Many would not consider Big Meadows one of the must photograph locations in Rocky Mountain National Park. Many hikers and photographers will pass through Big Meadows but it's beauty is more subtle and often ignored. Every location in Rocky has its own beauty, it's just a matter of capturing each location under the right conditions. Technical Details: Nikon D810, Nikkor 16-35mm F4 AF ED VR
Sunrise over Big Meadows on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park. Many would not consider Big Meadows one of the must photograph locations in Rocky Mountain National Park. Many hikers and photographers will pass through Big Meadows but it’s beauty is more subtle and often ignored. Every location in Rocky has its own beauty, it’s just a matter of capturing each location under the right conditions. Technical Details: Nikon D810, Nikkor 16-35mm F4 AF ED VR
Dream Lake, The Rock Cut, The Loch, Chasm Lake, Moraine Park all these constitute some of the most beautiful locations in Rocky Mountain National Park. These qualify as icons and as such photographers flock to these locations when visiting Rocky Mountain National Park. These locations are iconic because they are stunningly beautiful locations with or without a camera in hand. We all love photographing these icons of RMNP, but what about photographing locations in Rocky that are less iconic but have their own unique beauty and aura to them?.

Photographing non-iconic locations is by far more challenging then setting up along the shore of Dream Lake to photograph sunrise. For me at least, every nook and cranny of Rocky Mountain National Park holds beauty. That beauty may be more subtle than the knock your socks off, in your face beauty of Dream Lake but its there if you look for it. I find some of my most rewarding images of Rocky Mountain National Park are ones taken in locations that other photographers feel are either blasé or ones other photographers consider somewhat pedestrian when it comes to the landscape.

Every location in Rocky is beautiful and for me it’s about finding the right conditions and light to bring out the beauty and mood of a given location. Take for example the image above. Big Meadows on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park is an often visited location. That being said you wont find many images of Big Meadows in books, calendars or postcards. For the most part, hikers and photographers to Big Meadows will travel right on through on their way to what they consider more scenic areas of Rocky.

I’ve done this very thing many times myself but each time I pass through Big Meadows I think what a beautiful location it is and what conditions would I need to be able to convey the mood and spirit of this location. Big Meadows is exactly what the name describes it as. It’s a large grassy, marshy meadow surrounded mostly by some of Rocky more nondescript and less iconic peaks. There is no lake here, no giant granite mountain face towering over the the meadow. It’s a more subtle beauty, one where you are more likely to be photographing alongside a moose grazing along Tonahutu Creek then alongside another photographer.

So while its fun photographing the iconic locations of Rocky Mountain National Park, I feel it is just as important if not more so to photograph the beauty of the less iconic locations. A few weeks back conditions were perfect for what I had envisioned would be necessary to successfully photograph Big Meadows. Clouds drifted over the mountains and fog was present in the meadow. I had made a mental note to myself that the next time conditions unfolded like these I should make an attempt to hike into Big Meadows and see if I could capture the feel and mood of this beautiful spot.

I’m sure Dream Lake would have yielded a beautiful image as well this particular morning, but squishing around the wet grasses and soil of Big Meadows on this magical morning was not only worth it, but I was rewarded with an image of Big Meadows that I think perfectly captures the beauty of this location.