River to Hallett Peak (Rocky Mountain National Park)

Often overlooked as a photographic spot is ‘Storm’s Pass’ on Bear Lake Road which offers nice views of Hallett Peak at sunrise. Storm’s Pass has a tiny parking lot that fits maybe four cars and it is surrounded by much more popular destinations along Bear Lake Road – like Bear Lake itself, Glacier Gorge, Sprague Lake, etc… all of which draw hundreds of hikers and photographers daily. As I sat here photographing cars flew by but not a single person stopped to catch the view.

There is a river leading down from the mountain which draws a leading line through the trees which also help to provide a nice foreground. The only negatives are the two trees that have jumped up and partially blocked the views of the mountain….if only I had a saw (just kidding of course).

River to Hallett Peak (Rocky Mountain National Park)

River to Hallet Peak (Rocky Mountain National Park)

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Last Light on Long’s Peak (Rocky Mountain National Park)

One of the most easily accessible and thus visited lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park is Bear Lake. During the day the mile long, handicap accessible trail that circles the lake is packed with families with young kids and older family members who no longer get along as well as they once did. However, on this August night as the sun went down the area around the lake was surprisingly empty. It was chilly this evening – around 45 or so – which probably kept most visitors indoors. Admittedly, I wasn’t as prepared for the weather as I should have been but fortunately it wasn’t too far back to my warm car at the trailhead.

Last Light on Long’s Peak (Rocky Mountain National Park)

Last Light on Long's Peak (Rocky Mountain National Park)

“There is no place comparable to the Diamond [up Colorado’s Longs Peak]. It is high, cold, steep, a long way from the parking lot, and most of all, intimidating. Chasm View, or the Flying Buttress can get you acclimated, but nothing can prepare you for the Diamond but the Diamond.” — Malcolm Daly.

It’s hard to make out the famous, unmistakable diamond of Long’s Peak in this photo but when the sunsets it is the last place the sun hits as it rises 14,259 feet into the air. I do want to climb it one day (you can hike to the top) but I need to get more acclimated to the high altitudes first before I’m ready to tackle that challenge.

Morning in Rocky Mountain National Park

After photographing Lake Helene at Sunrise I headed back to find the trail that I somehow lost in the morning. Hiking through a number of trees and overgrown bush – trying to make some noise in case the moose and her babies that are known to frequent this area were nearby – I stumbled onto this scene which was magical with the sunlight poking through the trees creating a ‘sunstar’. There was a light rain the night before and so the grass was still wet – as the sun hit the top blades of grass a glow was created that came through nicely in the photo.

Morning in Rocky Mountain National Park

Morning in Rocky Mountain National Park

In order to capture a ‘sunstar’ in your image it is imperative to set a narrow aperture on your lens – if you click the link above there is more detail around the specifics – but essentially think of the narrow aperture as if you are squinting your eyes. The more you squint the bigger the ‘sunstar’ effect will become and that is true in photography as well. The larger your aperture value (i.e. smaller opening, less light getting through, etc…) the better the sunstar. The sunstar here was shot at f/22.

Nature’s Frame (Garden of the Gods)

An easy 1-mile round trip trail in the Garden of the Gods State Park near Colorado Springs, Colorado leads to the well known rock formation – Siamese Twins. A popular hike, as the trail is well maintained, so you are likely to encounter a fair amount of people (and pets) on the trail to and from the formation. In the distance is one of the iconic peaks of the Colorado Rockies – Pike’s Peak. Pike’s Peak stands at over 14,000 feet (one of 52 peaks in Colorado to reach that height) but is pretty accessible to most of the public via a 13-mile (one way) hiking trail (called the Barr Trail) which also contributes to how dangerous it is. Gaining nearly 8,000 feet in elevation it is exposed to lightning throughout much of the trip up and down. Often, as I saw when I hiked to the top of Hallet’s Peak in August, storms come out of nowhere in the summer months in the mountains. A cloudless morning can quickly turn into a heavy storm by 11 AM and most hikers are not aware of the dangers that an exposed peak brings as there is no cover from deadly lightning strikes.

Nature’s Frame (Garden of the Gods)

Long's Peak through a Natural Frame (Garden of the Gods)

Perfection at Sprague Lake (Rocky Mountain National Park)

This is perhaps the easiest ‘iconic’ shot in Rocky Mountain National Park. The view from the quick and flat half mile hike from the parking lot to this spot on the shore of Sprague Lake is absolutely perfect. The rocks in the foreground make a nice point of interest and then the obvious star of the show is the Continental Divide in the background which is highlighted by my favorite peak in the park – Hallett Peak (which BTW I hiked to the top of during my last visit. More on that in another post as I’m pressed for time at the moment).

When I woke up in the morning for sunrise I had another spot in mind to take pictures at because I’ve been to this particular lake so many times before…however, when I turned to go towards the park and saw the big puffy cloud over top of the Continental Divide I knew this morning had a chance to be special and I didn’t want to miss it. As the sun came over the horizon to light the peaks the cloud started to glow as well – the water was calm as it usually is in the morning – and I shot what I consider to be the perfect photograph from this location. Big puffy clouds turning pink, nice reflection, colorful peaks and interesting foreground objects with the rocks. I could not have been happier the rest of this day!

Perfection at Sprague Lake (Rocky Mountain National Park)

Sprague Lake Rocky Mountain National Park

We are on the cruise heading up to Juneau tomorrow and are going to be hiking to the Medenhall Glacier – it was my Mom and sister’s birthday yesterday so I should also wish them a happy birthday!! I also missed one of my best friends weddings this past weekend (I feel awful about it – he understood that the timing of this trip was such that I couldn’t miss it and I love his understanding of the situation – Congrats Shaun and Misty!)

Rocky Mountain Winters

Unfortunately, it may be awhile before I’m back to Rocky Mountain National Park. I’ve been very fortunate over the past few years to go there a handful times as one of my clients is located 90 minutes south of the park. Unfortunately, that client was acquired by a larger company and thus will be going away soon. While we haven’t officially been told that our services will no longer be needed I’ve unofficially heard from a few other folks that work with the larger company that January 1, 2015 will be the integration date of the plans.

This year I was planning to spend a weekend in the Rockies in February but unfortunately that flight was cancelled because of poor weather and I never made it out there. My most recent trip in mid-May was also cancelled because of poor weather leaving me only one last fall weekend in October/November to take in the beautiful sites of one of America’s best national parks.

Rocky Mountain Winter

Rocky Mountain National Park Winter Mills Lake

I took this photo last year when I was snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park with one of my clients. He has a house in Estes Park right outside RMNP and spends alot of his winter and summer weekends enjoying the outdoors. Every time I visit I get so jealous of the surrounding area and the beauty that is everywhere you turn. I believe we were trying to snowshoe to Black Lake but had to turn around half way through because the snow was just too deep and we kept falling through to our waist. On the way back we skimmed over Mills Lake and I took this picture of the peaks ahead that make up the Glacier Gorge. I’ll miss my quarterly trips out to Denver. Hopefully, I’ll have a chance to get back there annually at the very least to re-visit what quickly became one of my favorite spots to visit.

The Garden of the Gods

I spent a few days at the Garden of the Gods State Park while in Colorado last November. It was a quick trip where I was out there for only a day but the weather was perfect as I think it was in the low 70s/high 60s and the wind was fairly calm. I hiked a number of the trails and drove around exploring much of the park in the one day I was there. For anyone who hasn’t been out that way I’d highly recommend spending a few hours checking out the main sites (balanced rock, twin sisters, big toe) which are all just short and easy hikes from major parking lots.

The Garden of the Gods at Dusk

Garden of the Gods Colorado Springs Colorado