Smoked Chickadee

The Sun rises above a thunderstorm over the plains and lights the smokey skies above Chickadee Pond and Wild Basin section of Rocky Mountain National Park.
The sun begins to creep above a large thunderstorm over the eastern plains of Colorado. Particulates and smoke from the many wildfires out turns the sky over Chickadee Pond a magenta hue. Wild Basin contains some of Rocky Mountain National Park’s most beautiful locations. It takes some work to get Wild Basin’s many gems, and although the area is often overlooked by photographers, it contains some of Rocky’s most beautiful locations. Technicial Details: Canon EOS 1Ds III, 24mm TS-E F3.5 L II
The Wild Basin area of Rocky Mountain National Park has it’s own unique feel and vibe. It’s less visited than other sections on the east side of the park, and many visitors to the park are likely to pass on through without exploring this area. I too am guilty at times of overlooking the Wild Basin area for some of the more familiar spots.

Not only does Wild Basin have a different feel with it’s many streams and water features, it makes you work to see much of its beauty. Roads into and around Wild Basin stop about 5 miles short of any of the lakes or impressive peaks located in the Wild Basin. This means your not going to see very much of Wild Basin from your car.

To get close to the divide and the impressive peaks such as Mt. Copeland, Ouzel Peak and Mt. Alice your going to have to hoof it. While most of the hiking is on the moderate side, distance is the biggest obstacle to photographing this locations.

Five, Six and Seven mile one-way hikes are the norm when exploring Wild Basin. With that in front of me, and knowing I’ve neglected this area, I set off for the Ouzel Lake area.

It was a cloudless morning departing the trailhead, but I had been watching a large thunderstorm flicker over the plains east of Ft. Collins on 2:30 AM drive up to Rocky. The plan was either to photograph from either Ouzel Lake or Chickadee Pond at sunrise. In my opinion, Chickadee Pond offers a better viewpoint of the divide and Ouzel Peak than Ouzel Lake does, so that was my primary destination.

Chickadee Pond also has a propensity of pond lilies that grow on its surface. In fact, I cant think of another body of water in Rocky Mountain National Park that is so densely packed with pond lilies. I figured if clouds did not build at sunrise and bluebird skies persisted, I could at least photograph the pond lilies.

Lastly, the wildfires that have plagued the west this year continue to make photography difficult in Rocky Mountain National Park. The smoke from these wildfires has settled into Colorado for the last 2 weeks, diffusing the early morning sunlight and taking the ‘pop’ from the early morning sun.

I arrived at Chickadee Pond and realized my best option was to photograph the sunrise off to the east. That large thunderstorm over the plains I had watched on my drive up to the park could still be seen from Chickadee Pond. In fact, the large thunderhead was blocking the rising sun while allowing for some nice coloration in the sky and clouds.

I setup my camera and began photographing the sun rising over the large thunderhead clouds off to the east. The smokey skies above Chickadee Pond also helped to add color at sunrise by adding a magenta like hue as the first rays filtered through the particulates in the sky. All in all, the combination of the thunderstorm and smoke in the sky made for an interesting morning deep within Wild Basin.