Thank You, And Some Tips For Photographing Ice At Dream Lake

The Frozen Surface of Dream Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park
Photographing the frozen surface of Dream Lake has become a popular winter destination for photographers in Rocky Mountain National Park. It's become a bit of a cliche to photograph the surfce of the ice at Dream Lake, but the constantly changing patterns on the surface make it easy to capture unique patterns and images. Technicial Details: Canon EOS 1Ds III, 24-105mm F4 IS L
It’s hard to believe, but I’ve now been publishing my blog for an entire year. I’ll take a minute to pat myself on the back for accomplishing this feat as the majority of blogs will cease to exist after nine months, or so the internet tells me. When I started the blog a year ago today, I wasn’t quite sure how well I’d be able to keep up writing posts, mostly related to my photography in Rocky Mountain National Park, and the Open Space area’s around Boulder.

I’m certainly blessed living so close to these beautiful area’s which give me plenty of content to update my blog and photography portfolio. A quick thanks to all of you who follow the blog, and especially those who comment on the blog. I appreciate all of you taking the time to follow and contribute to the blog and I’ll do my best to post and update the blog as often as I can.

On another note, it’s certainly starting to feel like spring around here on the Front Range of Colorado. We’ve had a spate of nice weather with temperatures in the 60’s the last week. The persistent and seemingly never ending winds that we have been having all winter have also subsided somewhat. Nice weather does not typically translate into dynamic photography however. Regardless, it was looked like to nice of a day not to check out the conditions around Rocky Mountain National Park on Saturday.

I was not expecting much in the way of clouds on Saturday morning when I headed up to Rocky. The IR satellite imagery did not have a cloud with 400 miles of Rocky Mountain National Park the night before. A hike up to Dream Lake to see if any of the lake’s outlet had thawed and what the condition of the ice was seemed like a semi-productive way to spend a cloudless morning in Rocky. To my surprise, portions of the east outlet of Dream Lake had some open water, but also to my surprise, there was still plenty of clean ice on Dream Lake to photograph.

In full disclosure, the Ice on the Dream Lake has been photographed many times by other photographers and has become as much of an iconic image of Dream Lake as the view from the east outlet of Dream Lake has become during the warmer months. In fact, until Saturday, I had intentionally avoided photographing the ice because it has been done so often and so well by other photographers. After shooting a cloudless sunrise at Dream Lake on a warm and windless morning, I could not avoid the temptation to photograph the ice I was standing on. I’d be happy to share a few quick tips on how and when to photograph the ice on Dream Lake.

It should go without saying, but wandering onto the surface of a frozen alpine lake in Winter can be a very dangerous and potentially deadly activity. Always check the conditions of the ice before walking out onto the lake. If possible have another person with you as a spotter and somebody who can assist and help in the event you fall through the ice. Backcountry winter protocol should be followed when hiking to Dream Lake this time of year.

Typically the best time of year to photograph Dream Lake are the months of January and February. Intuitively, it would seem that the lake’s surface would be buried under 6 ft of snow that time of year, but in fact the high winds that scrape the surface of the lake help to keep much of the surface of the ice free of snow. Furthermore, some of the cleanest and flattest ice will be located on leeward side of the boulders found at Dream Lake. Secondly, you wont require a macro lens to photograph the ice but it may be helpful. Focal lengths from wide angles to telephoto’s can all help at capturing the patterns in the ice. I find that I often am using a focal length of around 100-105mm to isolate patterns on the ice. Lastly, the best time of day to photograph the ice is the period after sunrise but prior to the sun hitting the surface of the lake. The diffused Colorado cobalt blue sky reflecting in the surface of the shaded lake that causes the ice to take on a deep blue hue. Once the Sun is high enough in the sky to illuminate the surface of the lake you will lose that affect and the lighting will become to harsh.

3 thoughts on “Thank You, And Some Tips For Photographing Ice At Dream Lake

  1. That’s pretty neat Tom,it almost looks like it was taken from underwater looking up!?
    Tell me it wasn’t!
    oh,and I’ll pat your back tomorrow!

    Congrats on this blogs first anniversary.Keep them coming.

    1. Joe and Robert,

      Thanks for the kind words. Like I stated in the post, I’m not the first person to photograph the ice like this so I cant take credit for the idea and at this point in time, the Ice at Dream Lake has been photographed many times over. That being said, I certainly photographed the ice from the top side. If I was photographing it from the other side it would probably make a great ‘limited edition’ print because I doubt I’d be making many more images!.

  2. Congradulations on your blogs 1st anniversity as well! I really enjoy reading your blogs. And Robert was right, it does look like you are under the ice. I really enjoyed the pic and thanks for the good advice. Keep up the good work.

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