Dream Morning (Rocky Mountain National Park)

Temperatures are in the teens and there is fresh layer of snow covering the mile and a half climb to Dream Lake. The smell of winter and wind chills dipping into the single digits convinces me to throw that extra pair of mittens into my bag – you never know if I’ll need them when not operating the camera.

I’m leaving from the trailhead at Bear Lake two hours before sunrise because I want to be sure that I don’t miss first light kissing the peaks of the Rockies. There are three other cars in the parking lot that holds 150 so cars generally. I presume the others are up in the mountains some place camping – I’m envious in a way and feel that my four hours of sleep in a warm hotel room are cheating somehow. Still I value that warm bed and most importantly value those precious outlets that allow me to re-charge camera batteries, laptops and cell phones – I can’t give those modern day conveniences up so easy. I’m a city kid from the Midwest barely equipped for the hike on a well maintained – albeit snow covered – trail. Still my knowledge of Rocky Mountain National Park has improved greatly in the past four years and I’m full of confidence as I start out. In those past years I’ve visited 12 times and know that on this last hike up the mountain that it very likely will be last (at least for sometime). I’m dreading that but am happy that I will some photos to remember the morning by.

Dream Lake Sunrise (Rocky Mountain National Park)

Dream Lake at Sunrise (Rocky Mountain National Park)

This place is where I fell in love with photography – if I wasn’t making quarterly trips out here for work I most likely would have given it up at some point along the way. I got lucky my first trip to the park and was fortunate to get some recognition in a photo contest from a shot I submitted of Fog Over Sprague Lake (Link Here). There were a few hundred entries in the contest and somehow I placed in the top 32 which may not seem like much but as someone who had just bought their first DSLR camera a few months earlier it was everything. My time spent outside of the office became increasingly dedicated to learning about photography – in fact at one point I posted a picture for 560 days in a row (which just seems absurd now) but trying to do that daily forced me to stay at it and learn to be better. At many times during those first eighteen months on the blog I’d get four or five visitors a day but none of that mattered because I was doing it primarily for me. I wanted to capture beauty with the camera and document the fortunate experiences in my life. It drove me to be better and now as I go back and look at some other photo – like the one below (from almost the same time of year and the same spot) it really makes me realize how much I’ve learned.

Winter in the Rockies – Version from April 2012

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The processing is pretty shoddy and colors just aren’t realistic. It is not a great example of HDR but I was so happy with it at that point and thought it was wonderful. I look at it now and I can pick out all the flaws in it – I wonder if in four years I’ll be doing the same to the more recent version of this shot?

Who knows but I’ll continue to enjoy the journey and try to get better. There will be more ups and downs but that’s the fun of it.

“Life is not always perfect. Like a road, it has many bends, ups and down, but that’s its beauty.”
― Amit Ray, World Peace: The Voice of a Mountain Bird

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