It continues to be an interesting month of May in Rocky. It feels like we’ve had interesting weather just about every morning for the past few weeks. Sure, I’m not a huge fan of late May snowstorms but it certainly makes for really interesting conditions many mornings with clouds, fog and snow covered peaks.
After another night of rain and or snow depending on what elevation you were at I was doing my normal scouting in the pre-dawn hours looking to be in the best spot when the sun rose. When I first arrived I was thinking Bierstadt Lake or the Bear Lake area. There were some really nice clouds hanging over the peaks of RMNP.
There was lots of fog and clouds just below Estes Park and it appeared to be moving upslope. Unsettled mornings like this can either be amazing for photographers or you can end up losing your view of the mountains when a shroud of clouds rolls over you.
Bear Lake was out of the questions because with the exception of a tiny portion near the outlet, it’s still completely frozen over which is hard to believe for late May. Bierstadt Lake would have been a good spot but at Bierstadt you have to commit to photographing either a westerly view or and easterly view as you cant get around the larger lake in time to photograph both well.
In hindsight I probably would have been in pretty good shape if I had hiked up to Bierstadt Lake. But because the clouds and fog were moving and I was having a hard time figuring out if the light would be best to the east of Rocky Mountain National Park or to the west on the divide itself, I decided to head down Bear Lake Road back to Moraine Park.
Arriving in Moraine Park, Longs Peak was partially covered. There was a huge herd of elk grazing in the meadow along the Big Thompson River and the narrowleaf cottonwoods and some of the aspens had newly budded leaves showing on the trees. At this point there was only about 20 minutes to sunrise so I was committed to photographing from Moraine Park at this point.
The clouds remained fairly consistent at this point and actually cleared from view of Longs Peak. The small break in the cloud cover to the east also remained and at sunrise we had some beautiful light hit a very snow covered Longs Peak. Elk grazing below, fresh greens in the meadow and on the trees and a perfect spring vignette of Rocky Mountain National Park unfolded in front of me.